Monday, May 6, 2024

From bringing veterans’ experiences to the stage with the help of augmented reality to exploring the art of Indian printmaking, six University of Iowa faculty members will cultivate a wide range of scholarly and creative projects with the support of the Arts and Humanities Initiative (AHI).  

The Office of the Vice President for Research backs AHI, a competitive, internally reviewed grant program that supports scholars in the humanities or creative, visual, and performing arts. The program provides up to $7,500 for a standard grant, $10,000 for a major conference, and $30,000 for a major project grant.

“These projects highlight the role of the arts and humanities in understanding our own inner worlds and the past and present issues of the world we share,” said Kristy Nabhan-Warren, associate vice president for research, professor and V.O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair of Catholic Studies. “We are excited to see these faculty bring their visions to wider audiences with the support of AHI funds.”

The spring 2024 winners are:

Major Project Grants

Mary Beth Easley, associate professor, theatre arts, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)
ARatorio for the Mis_Remembered: An Immersive AR/VR Musico-Theatre Work

Mary Beth Easley

Easley is collaborating with theatre arts lecturer Mark Bruckner, recent MFA graduate and freelance designer Kalen Novak, and MFA playwriting alumnus and freelance librettist Sandy Dietrick to create ARatorio for the Mis_Remembered. ARatorio is a live musico-theatre work that will merge historical practices of documentary theatre with augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to create an immersive memorial to the stories of staff and student veterans. Drawing on interviews conducted in collaboration with the university’s Iowa Veterans Education and Transition Office (IVETS), the project aims to engage audiences in the stories of these soldiers, capturing their experiences and memories of service in a far more nuanced and arresting way than the combat stories portrayed in mainstream media. The AHI award will support the final phase of the project, culminating in a public, multimedia performance in summer 2025. The performance will include  live streaming and VR headsets.

Anita Jung, professor, art and art history, CLAS
Video Project for the Waswo Collection of Indian Printmaking 

Anita jung

Jung will create a feature-length video to contextualize the Waswo Collection of Modern and Contemporary Indian Printmaking housed at the Stanley Museum of Art. The Waswo Collection comprises over 300 prints by 100 artists and is paramount to preserving India’s fine art printmaking heritage. Jung will collaborate with videographer Pooja Usha and independent art and culture manager Amit Kumar Jain to incorporate more than 60 interviews with living artists featured in the collection, some of which Jung conducted during a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award in 2022. In 2025, the team will spend two months in India, conducting 10 to 15 additional artist interviews and visiting government-run studios across the country. The documentary will accompany an exhibition at the Stanley and will be housed by the Iowa Digital Library.

Standard Grants

Sarah Bond, associate professor, history, CLAS
Pasts Imperfect: Writing and Publishing for the Public

Sarah Bond

Bond is collaborating with Melissa Febos, professor of English; Tom Keegan, head of the UI Libaries’ Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio; Lauren Lessing, Stanley Museum of Art director; Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program; and Jen Teitle, assistant dean in the Graduate College to host a public panel and workshop at the Stanley Museum of Art on Tuesday, September 24, 2024. The event will explore how academics can write for the public from pitch to publication, taking an interdisciplinary approach to developing, publishing, and amplifying the writing of scholars and graduate students, especially those from historically marginalized and diverse backgrounds. Derek (DK) Nnuro, author and curator of special project at the Stanley, will moderate a panel discussion featuring Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief at Hyperallergic; Stephanie Wong, editor and writer at the University of Michigan Alumni Magazine and a PhD candidate in history at Brown University; and Jennifer Banks, senior executive editor for religion and the humanities at Yale University Press. The event will be recorded as part of a larger public writing forum and toolbox website helping scholars here at Iowa and beyond to write and publish public-facing work that meets the public where they are, and then introduces the populace to the work done within the academy. The departments of History and Classics are also sponsoring the event.

Horacio Castellanos Moya, associate professor, Spanish and Portuguese, CLAS
Revisiting Exile

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Castellanos Moya will address the long periods of his life spent living in exile through a non-fiction project. After receiving death threats in his native El Salvador for his controversial novel Revulsion, Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador, Castellanos Moya left the country and lived in Madrid, Mexico City, Guatemala City, and Frankfurt from 1997 to 2006. In 2023, Castellanos Moya settled permanently in the US. He will revisit the four cities in which he stayed, comparing the past and present not only of his worldview and personal circumstances, but also the cultural and political environs of each city. The author of 13 novels and three collections of essays, Castellanos Moya will blend memoir, travel literature, and essay in his first autobiographical book.

Matthew Hill, associate professor, anthropology, CLAS
A World Teeming with Dogs: Dogs at the Intersection of White Colonizers, Enslaved Africans, and Native Americans in Colonial Virginia

Matt Hill

Hill will explore human-animal relationships and the influence of human social structures by studying the archaeological remains of 40 dogs from seven sites occupied by white landowners and enslaved people in colonial-era Virginia. From the 17th to 19th century, white Europeans, European Americans, native North Americans, and enslaved African people in Virginia lived in close geographic proximity but were separated by race, class, and culture. Numerous dogs lived among these distinct communities and were imagined to be separated along the same boundaries as their human companions. Hill will analyze genetics, dietary isotopes and bone size and shape to determine whether dogs from White European American and enslaved African communities mated with each other, ate different foods, were of different sizes and shapes, and had different life histories.

Johanna Kasimow, assistant professor, theatre arts, CLAS
The Grüb: A new performance work that probes sensations of hiding and rhythms of survival

Johanna Kasimow

Kasimow is the instigator, director, and co-writer of The Grüb, an experimental, semi-autobiographical play created in collaboration with Eva Steinmetz and Alex Tatarsky, and designer Maiko Matsushima. The piece probes sensations of hiding and rhythms of survival across generations, drawing on the experience of Kasimow’s father, who, as a young boy, spent nearly two years hiding with his family from the Nazis in a pitch-black hole underneath a barn outside Vilnius, Lithuania. The family called it the “grüb”—Yiddish for “grave.” The piece is a theatrical diptych, split between a woman’s apartment and an underground pit, and draws on multiple theatrical traditions, including clown, melodrama, grotesque, and hyper-realism. Kasimow hopes to premiere the piece in 2026 or 2027.