About the Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) Program
Examples of successful proposals (HawkID and password required)

March 2021 AHI Awardees
March 2020 AHI Awardees

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the October 2020 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:


Eloy Barragán, Associate Professor, Department of Dance
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant 

UNIONES - On the Stage, On the Street, On the Screen

Dance companies were unprepared to pivot their presentations when COVID-19 closed theaters worldwide. The closure of performance venues had a devastating impact on dance makers, who typically create with performance spaces in mind. Barragán would use the Arts and Humanities Initiative (AHI) Grant to develop a choreographic method teaching students to pivot across and design dance-making for three platforms simultaneously: the proscenium stage, specific sites, and virtual platforms. With the support of the AHI Grant and in collaboration with the National School of Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance (ENDCC) in Mexico City, Barragán will produce an interpretation of Les Noces (Marriage), titled UNIONES, set to Stravinsky’s score. This interdisciplinary, collaborative project between the ENDCC screen-dance program and the classical/contemporary training programs will be performed on the stage at the Raul Flores Canelo Theater, on the street with Dance Investigation Center Outdoor Theater, and on the screen with Dance Investigation Center Cinema Theater. With this experience, Barragán will create curriculum for Choreography III and IV at the University of Iowa, and re-stage UNIONES in 2022 with the UI School of Music and/or Cedar Rapids Opera Theater.

Nicholas Cladis, Lecturer, Center for the Book
Arts & Humanities Major Project Grant

Artisans and Artists in a Traditional Japanese Papermaking Village

Artisans and Artists in a Traditional Japanese Papermaking Village proposes that a collaborative research team comprising the University of Iowa Center for the Book’s (UICB) papermaking specialist (myself) and five graduate research associates be given an opportunity to travel to Japan to learn from artisans making traditional Japanese handmade paper. Selected researchers will spend two weeks in the Echizen papermaking region of Japan, making paper alongside papermaking families while immersed in Japanese craft traditions. Researchers will be able to investigate how these families earn their livelihood from traditional papermaking, while also learning the history of the craft in its place of origin. This project will culminate in a village-wide exhibition of team members’ artwork made in the village and will then continue after they return to the United States through demonstrations, dialogue with artisans, and professional documentation and archiving of activities. The result of this will be a major boon to the UICB by generating a vibrant international presence for the center while establishing it as a leader in Japanese papermaking and solidifying it as a valuable and international asset to the fine arts and book conservation fields. The purpose of this project is threefold. First, it will cement a formal relationship between the Echizen papermaking village in Japan and the UICB, while also seeding a dialogue between these two communities that will benefit the UICB on a department-wide basis. Concurrently, it will give the UICB unique exposure to the lives and work of Japanese papermaking artisans by providing crucial educational and scholarly insight into the economics of craftsmanship. Finally, this project will give the UICB a long-standing connection and forum to share and exhibit faculty and student work internationally.

Gregory Hand, Associate Professor, School of Music
Arts and Humanities Initiative Major Conference Grant

Diversity in Sound: the Klais Organ at the University of Iowa

“Diversity in Sound: the Klais organ at the University of Iowa” is tentatively scheduled for late Fall 2021. This conference will bring together organ professors, graduate students, church musicians and performers to examine the vastly underreported influence of the Southern German organ on the development of organ literature and organ building. We already have a $20,000 budget from an internal endowed fund and are seeking AHI Funding to help cover the honoraria and travel portions of the main presenters, which will greatly increase the scope and reach of the conference. The Klais organ at the University of Iowa is the first modern organ in the United States to be built patterned after historic Southern German organs. A series of lectures, masterclasses, video presentations of historic organs, and recitals will demonstrate the exceptionally wide amount of organ literature that the Southern Germany-influenced Klais organ can perform in a historic and convincing way. We also will explore the complicated question of why pedagogical methods and current research has consistently prioritized the influence the North German Baroque organ and the 19th-century French Romantic organ at the expense of the Southern German organ. We will also propose ways that this organ type can be integrated into future pedagogical methods. We expect several important outcomes from this conference, including: 1) Public masterclasses and recitals to be live streamed and archived for long-term dissemination 2) Building a publicly available repository of audio and video demonstrations of organs built in the Southern German style, all subtitled in English to ensure widest distribution 3) Establishing the University of Iowa as a national research center on this innovative way of understanding organ literature.

Anabel Maler, Assistant Professor, School of Music
Arts and Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Seeing Voices: Analyzing Sign Language Music

The proposed monograph, entitled Seeing Voices: Analyzing Sign Language Music, contextualizes recent musical practices in Deaf culture within the history of deafness and deaf education in America, and proposes a methodology for engaging analytically with the musical products of Deaf culture, in the form of musical works created and performed in sign language. The project’s aim is to bring the long and rich history of sign language music to the attention of music theorists, to engage with it seriously and thoughtfully as a musical art, to understand what elements of music are resilient across modalities, and to grapple with the methodological quandaries that signed music raises for the discipline of music theory. In redefining music as movement, the book argues that sign language music, rather than being marginal or extraneous to histories and theories of music, is in fact central and crucial to our understanding of all musical expression and experience. It argues, above all, for the resilience of music in the face of enormous obstacles. This book will provide a thorough grounding in the history and analysis of signed music for undergraduate students and will thus be of interest for classes in ethnomusicology and historical musicology as well. Seeing Voices will also interest a scholarly audience in the humanities and is aimed at scholars in music theory and musicology. Owing to the interdisciplinary scope and methods of this research, different chapters will engage readers from a range of disciplines and fields in addition to music theory and musicology including ethnomusicology, disability studies, Deaf studies, American studies, and voice studies.

Courtney Miller, Assistant Professor, School of Music
Arts and Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Reclaiming Performance: Composition, Creation, and Collaboration through Covid-19

The field of music has been hit especially hard by Covid-19. The pandemic has led to extreme financial and emotional hardship for many musicians worldwide. The inability to perform and share music with others in person is leaving a heavy mark on classical music. This project provides an opportunity for young composers from around the world who are facing adverse circumstances in the time of Covid-19 to share their unique perspective through musical composition. The first step involves identifying composers under the age of 30 from each of the six inhabited continents. Other criteria considered will be the quality of their work and their interest in collaboration. During difficult times, the need for musical expression is all the more necessary. This project will allow each composer to share their journey through the lens of music, and more specifically the oboe. What makes this project imperative is the timing of it. As terrible and crippling as this pandemic is, it is a shared human experience throughout the world. This project will not only contribute meaningful literature to the oboe cannon but will also document the compositional process and artistic collaboration during the pandemic. This project has three main components: 

  1. New musical compositions that communicate the challenges each composer has overcome or is overcoming
  2. A live concert that premieres all six new compositions at the University of Iowa
  3. Interviews with the composers throughout the year as well as a survey of the audience’s response at the live performance.

The final result will be an hour-long music documentary that will feature the composer interviews, the world premiere performance, and the audience responses. I will present this documentary and research project at music conferences. Additionally, I will help facilitate the publication of these new works so that they are more readily available. Once the pandemic is over, I plan to concertize and promote these compositions on the regional, national, and international stage.

Emily Wentzell, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Arts and Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Narratives of social experience from COVID-19 vaccine trial volunteers: Insights about pandemic life and vaccine promotion

While a vaccine against COVID-19 offers hope for mitigating pandemic-related harms, increasing vaccine hesitancy undermines this possibility. This Medical Humanities/Anthropology project will generate findings needed to solve that problem by using a narrative approach to analyze the experiences of UIHC COVID-19 vaccine research volunteers. It will thus demonstrate the importance of humanistic inquiry – too often sidelined in favor of STEM approaches – to mitigating the pandemic and solving major problems of our time. We will collect the narratives of 50 participants in the UIHC COVID-19 vaccine trial via semi-structured phone interviews. Interviews will address participants’ reasons for vaccine trial enrollment, experiences living as a vaccine/placebo recipient, and interactions with others about those experiences. We will use narrative analysis to identify the key social factors which encouraged people to seek vaccination, and which shaped their interactions with supportive or concerned friends, relatives and colleagues. Our ultimate goals are to generate findings which can 1) advance Medical Humanities understandings of the ways people use health behavior to respond to widespread precarity; and 2) enhance public health efforts to create regional promotional materials for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. This study is innovative because medical research participation is a novel cultural context to use for developing insights about vaccine-related health behavior. This project will have positive impacts in four key areas. 1) Findings can be applied to inform the creation of regional promotional materials for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, increasing vaccine uptake and mitigating pandemic harms; 2) The project will positively impact Medical Humanities knowledge about people’s use of health behavior to cope with life amid crisis; 3) This project will establish, and pave the way for future externally funded, collaborations among UI and UIHC biomedical vaccine researchers and Medical Humanists; 4) In accomplishing the above, this project will demonstrate the utility of humanistic inquiry for solving pressing societal problems.