Arts and humanities initiative offers support for LAS projects

Three initiatives in the college are funded by the U of I System
Art sculpture near U of I Law School
The University of Illinois System announced special funding for the arts and the humanities to reflect their integral role to the mission and life at each of its three universities. Above: Art on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

Initiatives within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences are being supported by the second round of funding through the Presidential Initiative: Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities, announced by University of Illinois President Tim Killeen.

The new round of funding will provide $1.54 million to support 10 projects, including three within LAS. The LAS projects include an effort to break down barriers between African studies and African-American studies, a project to assemble a history of the impact of COVID-19 on Black communities, and the establishment of certification in intercultural competence for undergraduates.

A total of 10 projects around the University of Illinois System are being funded. Presidential Initiative: Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities was launched by Killeen to enhance and celebrate the arts and humanities at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and University of Illinois Springfield (UIS).

“The arts and humanities enrich our lives and help us understand the human condition in an increasingly complex world. This has been illustrated to us all, once again, with vivid clarity over the past 15 months of the pandemic and societal upheaval. I believed it was vital to create this fund in order to support projects that help ‘light the path’ forward for all of us, and I am proud that the U of I System is now providing a second round of funding for such important work,” Killeen said.

The new projects further demonstrate the university system’s commitment to building a better society for all Illinoisans, said Cynthia Oliver, who is the associate vice chancellor for humanities, arts and related fields at UIUC and was a member of the committee that reviewed proposals.

“It is so important that we demonstrate the value of arts and humanities research on our campuses and what our artists and humanities scholars contribute to our overall quality of life, our intellectual stimulation and our creative impulses. Great imaginations are at work in all of these projects,” Oliver said. “That the University of Illinois System is committed to this kind of support is imperative, especially now. I am honored to have been a part of the selection process and am only sorry we didn’t have twice the amount of support to offer our brilliant colleagues and double the impact.”

Five of the new projects will receive $175,000 each and the other five will receive at least $85,000. By comparison, the median arts grant award in fiscal year 2018 from the National Endowment for the Arts was about $20,000 and 58 percent were less than $25,000, according to the advocacy group Grantmakers in the Arts.

Presidential Initiative: Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities is supported by both the offices of the president and the executive vice president of the U of I System, using funds that support academic activities.

The initiative was launched in 2018 as the Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities. The first round of projects, 14 in all, was chosen the next year and included an Illinois writer’s festival, theater renovations and the use of virtual reality to teach theatrical performance.

The new projects in LAS include (LAS affiliations in parentheses):

Africana World Studies at UIUC and UIC, $175,000
Teresa Barnes (Center for African Studies, gender and women’s studies, history), Maimouna Barro (Center for African Studies), Mary Gathogo (linguistics), Erik McDuffie (African American Studies), Tekita Bankhead and Sam Smith (UIUC); and Lynette Jackson and Kirk Hoppe (UIC)
The development of a joint Africana World studies project on the UIC and UIUC campuses will help break down long-standing academic silos of African studies and African-American studies. Through a three-semester sequence, the project is expected to lead students to new opportunities for language learning and community engagement, and it will impact the curriculum at both universities. The project leaders anticipate that the primary participants will be undergraduate students.

Remembering Black Life in Color: Care, Memory, Community and COVID-19, $175,000
Gwyneth Milbrath (UIC) and Karen Flynn (gender and women’s studies)
Project leaders plan to work with organizations such as the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and the Chicago Chapter of the National Black Nurses' Association, recruiting students from a wide range of disciplines to help assemble a history of the human impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black communities. The project will gather oral interviews and create both digital and portable exhibits for presentation. Project leaders also anticipate that their work will expand the collections of the MidwestNursing History Research Center at UIC and reach audiences outside the academy. 

IC@Illinois: The Illinois Intercultural Competence Initiative, $171,000
Elena Delgado (Spanish and Portuguese, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics)
Focused on undergraduate students, IC@Illinois intends to make the University of Illinois System a hub for intercultural communication and intercultural studies. The project will use a humanities-centered approach to focus on the trajectories and histories of U.S minority populations, as well as relationships among different cultures. Undergraduates will be able to earn certification in Intercultural Competence, which refers to the ability to interact and function effectively across cultures. Graduate students will have roles, too, contributing to the development of courses, workshops and teaching modules.

Learn about the projects funded in the first round of this initiative, announced in January, 2019.

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The University of Illinois System and the College of LAS