Celebrating excellence in the Arts and Humanities with the Presidential Fellows in Humanistic Studies awards
Looking back to the 2020 awards, and celebrating the 2021 winners
(To read about the inaugural 2019 awards, see here.)
For the past three years, the Presidential Fellows in Humanistic Studies awards have celebrated the innovation of top artists and scholars in the arts and humanities across the University of Oregon. Ten faculty members were chosen for both the 2019 and 2020 awards, and six faculty have been chosen for this year’s awards. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the university as a whole, the College of Arts and Sciences is recognizing and celebrating both the 2020 and 2021 awardees together.
The awards were developed in 2019 by Karen Ford, then Divisional Dean for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, in conversation with President Michael Schill. “President Schill was eager to recognize and reward highly distinguished artists and humanists at UO, and we decided to offer an award that provided significant support that could be used flexibly,” Ford recalls. The $13,000 awards can fund travel, research assistance, copy editing, equipment, and myriad other research needs or can be put toward summer or sabbatical salary.
The recipients of the 2020 Presidential Fellows in Humanistic Studies were:
- Carlos Aguirre, Professor of History
- Geri Doran, Professor of Creative Writing
- Gina Herrmann, Professor of Spanish
- Wonkak Kim, Assistant Professor of Clarinet, School of Music and Dance
- Anya Kivarkis, Associate Professor of Jewelry and Metalsmithing Art
- Tres Pyle, Professor of English
- Scott Pratt, Professor of Philosophy
- Glynne Walley, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature
- Zachary Wallmark, Assistant Professor of Musicology
- Julie Weise, Associate Professor of History
For Kivarkis in the College of Design, the award supported three essayists, who wrote about the historical and critical contexts of her art for the publication of a solo exhibition catalogue with the Sienna Patti. “I was incredibly honored to be selected as a UO presidential Fellow,” Kivarkis said. “As a woman of color in a field that is predominantly Eurocentric, I see my work as challenging and mapping [the field’s] borders and opening possibilities for expanded representation of intersectional identity.”
Kivarkis says it’s rare for an individual artist in her field to receive such extensive historical and critical attention in an exhibition catalogue. The writers visited her studio and then proposed innovative ways of understanding her research framework, and by extension, other challenging critical frameworks in the field.
Weise, in the College of Arts and Sciences, used the resources to support the research for her project titled “Moving Citizens: Migrant Political Cultures in the Era of State Control,” a multi-site history of post-World War II migrant workers. Being named a Presidential Fellow has been indispensable in helping her move forward with her project. “I was thrilled to receive this award, which to me, affirmed the university’s commitment to the humanities even in difficult times.”
Currently, Weise is hiring graduate research assistants for the summer to help her sort through newspaper databases and review scanned primary documents, and, when it’s safe to do so, she looks forward to resuming travel to archives in Mexico, Europe, and southern Africa to complete her project.
As a clarinetist and creative artist, Kim says the funds from this award allow him to follow the entire creative process and reach a broader audience for the musical performance he is commissioning and creating. Kim’s performance titled “Creating a New Medium Through Fusion of Inter-Cultural Music” will fuse western contemporary composition with traditional Korean and explore the identity between the two, creating a new musical medium.
“This project is really a great way to explore my own identity as a musician and creative artist, and also find a new medium that will create entirely new creative possibilities, sonically, compositionally, and for performance,” Kim said. The concert will be performed both in the U.S. and Korea, as well as across Europe, and a CD featuring all the works will be recorded shortly after.
The recipients of the 2021 Presidential Fellows in Humanistic Studies are:
- Stacy Alaimo, Professor of English and Environmental Studies
- Nina Amstutz, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture
- Gabriela Pérez Báez, Associate Professor of Linguistics
- Erin McKenna, Professor of Philosophy
- Bryna Goodman, Professor of History
- Sylvan Lionni, Assistant Professor of Art
For Pérez Báez, this award means significant support for a project that recognizes the work of many in the UO community and the work of many Native American communities that are especially important for the UO.
The award will provide funding for copyediting and proofreading for a volume on awakening languages, which are languages that are being revitalized after a period of dormancy without any speakers. Her volume features close to 20 chapters, many of which are authored by members of the community whose language is awakening. Pérez Báez points out that UO linguistics has considerably contributed to this growing body of literature.
“The UO has been a hub for the development of Community Researchers, both alumni and current students, in the UO linguistics undergrad and grad degree programs,” Pérez Báez said. “For example, the work by UO alumni and current students allowed the National Breath of Life Archival Institute to develop the Indigenous Languages Digital Archive software suite. There is very little literature on the topic of awakening languages, so this volume will really be a first-of-a-kind.”
The award will help Alaimo complete Deep Blue Ecologies: Science, Aesthetics, and the Creatures of the Abyss, a book that investigates how aesthetic images of deep-sea life circulate through science, art, popular culture, and environmental advocacy. The book spans 100 years and explores how the images of deep-sea creatures have both threatened scientific authority and amplified scientific reception.
“Oregon has long been an international leader in environmentally oriented research across a wide range of fields. As a core faculty member in the Environmental Studies as well as an English professor, I’m quite pleased to see the university support transdisciplinary research,” Alaimo said.
Lionni has a scheduled art show for the spring of 2022 in Melbourne, Australia, as well as a tentatively scheduled show for the south of Sweden, both of which will be largely funded by this award.
“Most importantly, this award means I can make some mistakes in the studio, which every artist needs the time, space, and freedom to do,” Lionni explained. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but the international art community has had a hard year as a result of the pandemic. The gallery I’ll be showing with in Australia, for example, is launching at a time when Australia’s culture capital is seeing slashed arts funding and a rash of gallery closures. I think art is especially important in moments like these, and so this award is especially timely.”
Laura Vandenburgh, one of the fellowship reviewers, Director of the School of Art and Design and Associate Dean for the College of Design, explains that the criteria for these fellowships are rigorous, requiring that candidates articulate the conception and definition of the project, explain its significance, methodology, and anticipated impact, and give evidence of their record of excellence. Vandenburgh explains that the recipients are those who can make their projects sound compelling and significant to the selection committee and who can demonstrate a strong record of productivity and success.
“The fact that these awards include the arts has been so valuable because there aren’t many opportunities or big grants available to arts and humanities faculty,” Vandenburgh said. “Different kinds of creative practice and research require different kinds of support, so the flexibility that these awards offer is really unique. As a reviewer, it’s been a privilege to learn more about the exceptional work that’s going on across our campus.”
The continuation of the funding for these awards is being reviewed this spring as the selection committee—Karen Ford, dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences; Paul Peppis, professor of English; Stephen Rodgers, professor of music; Philip Scher, divisional dean for social science in the College of Arts and Sciences; Laura Vandenburgh, director of the School of Art and Design, and associate dean for the College of Design; and Harry Wonham, divisional dean for humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences—develop a proposal for sustaining the Presidential Fellow in Humanistic Studies award into the future.
By Victoria Sanchez, University Communications