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

March 2021 AHI Awardees
October 2020 AHI Awardees

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the October 2021 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:

Loyce Arthur, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre Arts
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Art and Conversation

I am applying for a standard AHI grant with the goal of expanding the reach of the Oracles Mural project to the Iowa City community through an art installation, community dialogues and workshops. It is vitally important that the call to action, “a mural is not enough,” posed by the mural artists is maintained and adds value to life in the City, in the present and future. I see the proposed activities as the beginning of a sustainable course of action that can be implemented in the community, year after year, changing in response to growth and change in Iowa City.

The project that I am proposing for AHI funding has two parts: Part I-- The addition of banners to the columns between the two murals on Burlington Street as part of a site installation. Funds will be used to create a series of banners that will be wrap around the columns between the murals to give viewers information and insight into what is behind the images and the language of the murals. It is hoped that the banners will stimulate conversation as people are walking by the murals and encourage them to stop and take the works in more deeply.

Part II-- A series of Art and Conversation workshops to continue the community dialogue about Black Lives Matter issues. These will be constructive interaction workshops giving people opportunities to make art, talk about it, and engage with important issues behind the art. Every effort will be made to assemble an intergenerational and diverse group of participants to work towards reducing barriers to interaction and starting to build trust between community members.

The project that I am proposing gives me another opportunity to put my teaching and investigations about public art into practice. It is also a chance to develop methods that will give students in my art and engagement course and those that work on the project itself useful plans of action as they take on public art projects in the future.

Lori Branch, Associate Professor, Department of English
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Postsecular Reason

This AHI proposal requests support for the travel portion of the CDA I have been awarded for the fall of 2021. This travel funding will enable me to spend 4 weeks in residence in the UK (November 21-December 18, 2021), workshopping my 4-chapter book manuscript, Postsecular Reason, with world-renowned specialists in the field of literature, religion and postsecular studies at Lancaster University, including my regular NEH collaborator Professor Mark Knight, and revising the project per our conversations to maximize its scope and impact.

Postsecular Reason synthesizes wide-ranging scholarship that critiques both religion and secularism and the ways we have come to understand them in modernity. It builds on these studies to mount a cross-disciplinary case for conducting scholarly work in the arts, humanities, and social sciences in postsecular ways – for thinking beyond a reductive, binary opposition of secularism-vs-religion.

The direct result of this time-in-residence and academic collaboration will be that I will send out a much-strengthened book proposal, introduction, and selected chapters of Postsecular Reason to strategically chosen presses in February 2022, in search of a publishing contract. This workshopping with a large group of expert beta readers will greatly enhance the quality and persuasiveness of Postsecular Reason, increasing the likelihood that it will receive a contract at a prestigious academic press. The book will further establish me as an expert in fields on which I regularly lecture in Asia, Europe, and the US. It will strengthen my visibility and ability to secure grants, which have included two six-figure awards from the NEH. This collaborative work on Postsecular Reason will also enrich the classes on literature, religion, and postsecular studies that I regularly teach to UI undergraduate, honors and graduate students.

Finally, the resulting book will benefit society by increasing understanding about the history of religion and secularism, decreasing religious and secular polarization and the popular perception of academic hostility to religion, and overcoming the perception of opposition between religious and secular forces in culture, advancing richer, postsecular modes of human flourishing.

Monica Correia, Professor, 3D Design Program
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Creating Design with Upholstery Fabric and Machines

This project proposes the creation of designs that combine traditional sewing techniques with Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technologies. I have been working with CAD and CNC for the last 25 years, but this is the first time that I introduce sewing in my design work.

Last Summer, I designed a set that includes a tridimensional wall piece, a seat and a light fixture. I am driving inspiration from embroidery and sewing techniques passed on to me, and by embroidery samples created by my mother to create this work.

To highlight the shapes and strengthen the design concept, I opted to build the forms with upholstery velvet and leather. The process includes transferring free hand sketches to software, manipulating the design, plotting templates, cutting material, and using sewing machines to join the various pieces.

Initial budget estimates and the full-size tests with materials indicated that funding for these sewing machines and for materials is needed to construct the pieces. Upholstery velvet and leather are expensive, and the total cost of this project with materials is substantial.

I am writing this grant proposal to ask for your support for the acquisition of two sewing machines and materials. These funds will allow me to create the first body of work with a sewing theme, and also to carry-on research on this topic. Consequently, this project will increase my ability to apply for international, national and local exhibition venues in the future.
Of note, I want to use this new work to create a portfolio aiming at the application for a Fulbright research grant to conduct research in Portugal in 2023/24. Also, I was invited to exhibit at the 2022 London Design Fair, London, UK and want to include the work produced with this grant in the exhibition.

Moreover, I plan to review the 3D Design curriculum to include sewing techniques that I am mastering with this project. This will have a significant impact on the undergraduate and graduate 3D Design curriculum and on students’ ability of creating portfolios for job and graduate school applications.

Melissa Febos, Associate Professor, Department of English
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
The Dry Season

The Dry Season is a creative nonfiction project driven by the central question of how celibacy has been an integral part of female liberation throughout history, and more broadly, how personal practices of divestment from oppressive systems is key to their disruption. It delves into the lives and work of celibate women who transcended the social laws of their times and found ways of self-actualizing when it was forbidden, either by law or social convention. In a book-length essay that combines personal narrative with intertextual research, it investigates how the Christian mystics predate the Shakers, what the Vestal Virgins had in common with the Dahomey Amazons, how the European beguines relate to second-wave radical feminists in the United States, and how the author’s own experience is the inheritance of all these. During the grant period, I hope complete a large piece of research related to the beguines of northern Europe, who lived in semi-monastic communes called beguinages. Additionally, I will be researching Hildegard of Bingen, the German mystic polymath and saint. This approximately 50-page portion of the manuscript will look at the communal lives of these celibate nuns who devoted their lives to social service and how their commitment to celibacy and spiritual principles rendered them, for many decades, the most free women in the world. I am particularly interested in the analogous nature of their lives to those of more contemporary feminist separatist movements, and to the work of Hildegard of Bingen, whose abbey was another all-female celibate space from which great works of art, linguistics, and medical science emerged that would not have been possible without celibacy and the religious structures that demanded it. I expect that this work will be groundbreaking in both its hybrid form and content. While there are an increasing number of works that integrate memoir, research, and criticism, there are none that address this subject, nor indeed in any genre or subgenre of creative nonfiction. I am confident that it will provide a valued contribution to the field and that it is an obvious next step in my own creative trajectory.

Lisa Gardinier, Curator, International Literature
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
55 Years of International Literature at the Writing University: A Bibliography of Iowa's Presence in Literary Works

This project aims to identify literary works that were either 1) developed or produced during the author's time in the International Writing Program residency at the University of Iowa or 2) written about Iowa, whether in fiction, poetry, or non-fiction. The resulting bibliography will be incorporated into an upcoming exhibition at the UI Libraries' Main Gallery in fall 2022 via its online presence. This proposal requests funding for a student employee at the UI Libraries' Student Specialist I rank, to be supervised by Lisa Gardinier, Curator for International Literature. The student will perform bibliographic searches, consult online and physical material, and enter data in a citation management system.

Ashley Howard, Assistant Professor, Departments of History and African American Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Major Project Grant

Civil Rights and Racial Justice: A Tour of the South

Civil Rights and Racial Justice: A Tour of the South is a new program for students and community members centered on a two-week tour of southern Civil Rights sites, museums, and memorials. At each site, we consult with historians, museum curators, interpreters, and participant-observers who will draw on their humanities expertise to engage with the tour participants. A new spring course (HIST:3257) prepares participants prior to the tour. Participants are also encouraged to enroll in a separate, four-week (3 credit hour) internship at the conclusion of the tour at the Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend. During the internship, students will participate in several community-engaged, restorative justice projects developed by Center Director, Assistant Professor Darryl Heller. In the fall, practicum participants will attend 2 workshops to reflect on their experience through collaborative humanities-based activities, including podcasts, videos, op-eds, blogs, and posters. Following those workshops, we will hold an open-community forum at the Iowa City Public Library where tour participants—community members, students, and faculty--will share their reflections and engage with community members in a discussion about social justice activism in the past and the present, in the South and in the Midwest. This is a collaborative program between the departments of History, GWSS, and African American Studies at the University of Iowa and the departments of History and Women's and Gender Studies at Indiana University, as well as the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. Indiana University covers the expenses for their students; travel expenses for University of Iowa students will be covered by a CLAS Strategic Initiatives grant. I am applying for federal (NEH Humanities Initiatives) and private foundation grants (Teagle and Doctor Scholl Foundation) to support the cost of the program in years 2 and 3.

Rebekah Kowal, Professor and Chair, Department of Dance
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
War Theatre: Dancing American Citizenship and Empire during World War II

Think of entertainment for American soldiers during WWII and United Service Organization Camp Show tours readily come to mind. According to USO.org: “By V-E day, the USO was putting on 700 shows per day all around the world and, by the end of the war, had sent over 7,300 entertainers overseas to perform for the troops.” These productions “brought America” to men and women fighting far from home, easing the strain of war. Study of performance during WWII has been dominated by narratives of USO-sponsored entertainments, even as these accounts are becoming more nuanced with respect to intersectional issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, and nationality. War Theatre: Dancing American Citizenship and Empire during World War II, complicates this picture by considering what we have yet to know and understand about the roles that movement practices, including dance, played in the project of American imperialism. My body of scholarly work stems from rigorous archival research that puts dance and embodied forms of knowledge in dialog with disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. Adding the knowledge about the ways the U.S. pursued cultural and territorial expansion via its global and domestic military presence during WWII, War Theatre investigates how embodied practices of war furthered American geo-political objectives both as staged intercultural encounters and as visual forms of discourse that the government produced and managed through the Office of War Information as wartime propaganda.

Daniel Miller, Associate Professor, Sculpture & Intermedia Program
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Mutual Light

Mutual Light is a proposed interactive light art installation by Associate Professor Daniel Miller, where large illuminated artificial flower forms have the ability to interact with the viewers, exploring human social interaction and biosignatures. The changes in visitors body heat and proximity to the light sculptures will cause the flowers to animate with light through temporal and color changes. In the center of each illuminated flower structure, infrared thermometers will take readings of the invisible heat signature of a participant. At the same time the "robo-flora" will precisely read the visitors distance to each flower with Lidar sensors. The use of multiple flower structures will allow the project to interact with participants in a larger public space to create an immersive light experience.

There are a number of parallel concepts being investigated in this art installation. While conceptually this project is looking at biomimicry using a robotic light system. This electronic art installation is also responding to the realities of living in a world with Covid-19, where temperature checks and social distancing are now commonplace. Additionally, there is a darker side to this project, where the discussion can lead to implications of digital surveillance of our personal bio signatures through governmental use of sensors and data. Another thread being explored in this project is human impact on ecosystems through global warming and the increased heat we generate from CO2 production. Here humans IR heat signature represents their contribution to a warmer world.

This project will be fabricated at the School of Art and Art History’s Visual Art Building facilities and Professor Miller’s studio on the Oakdale campus. Graduate and Undergraduate students will be hired to assist in the fabrication of this piece. The successful completion of this work will translate into the classroom where new approaches and techniques will be disseminated to students and other faculty.

The impact of this completed project will be demonstrated in a number of ways. The ultimate goal for this work is to engage a wider public. This outreach happens through exhibition of Mutual Light at prominent national and international venues and conference presentations.

Ana Rodriguez Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Re-Encountering Islam in the Philippines: Race and Religion at the Threshold of Spain's Modernity

An AHI Standard Grant would facilitate the completion of my current book project, Further Moors: Muslim-Christian Encounters on the Edges of the Spanish Empire (1565-1898), which I plan to finish by fall of 2022. This monograph analyzes Spanish contacts with Islam in the Philippines during the three centuries when Spain ruled the archipelago, and its impact on the perceptions and representations of racial and religious difference in the Spanish empire. Muslim-Christian contact in the Philippines extended from the 16th century until 1898, and it was a complex process which simultaneously reflected and transformed Spain’s views of Islam. Focusing on writings produced about the islands of Mindanao and Sulu, I examine the political and textual strategies implemented to keep control of the southern Philippines, the stronghold of Muslim power in the archipelago. This analysis will shed light on the role and evolution of racial and religious difference in Spain’s and other European powers’ cultural production and colonial practices during early modernity and beyond. My analysis reveals how racial and religious tensions originating in the Philippines were negotiated in the metropolis and on the islands, how they affected the construction of an imaginary of the Philippines, and of Asia, for consumption in Europe, as well as the impact of these negotiations on the definition of Spanish and more broadly Western identity in opposition to Islam.

This monograph will be of interest to scholars of Spain’s literature and culture concerned about how religious and political conflict were represented in the larger Spanish empire, particularly in relation to the complex relations with Islam during this period. It relies on a deep and meticulous analysis of primary and secondary historical and literary sources, which it approaches focusing on discursive analysis, the challenges of written representation in a colonial context, and the ideological pressures that intervene in the understanding of cultural identities. It will also be of interest to historians who would like to understand the implications of the presence of Muslims in this area of the Spanish empire, and to scholars of religious studies interested in the relations between Catholicism and Islam in Asia.