Newsletter 2021: Mellon Foundation Grant
By Jack Goode | Monday, May 17, 2021
By Jack Goode
Monday, May 17, 2021
Mellon Foundation Grant
In October 2020, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approved a grant of $225,000 to UMass History of Art and Architecture professors Ximena Gómez and Karen Kurczynski for a prestigious Mellon Sawyer Faculty Seminar on “Race and Visual Culture in the Americas, 20th to 21st Centuries.” This exciting project will develop over the next four years, focused around a yearlong series of faculty seminars featuring local faculty and national invited artists and scholars in 2022–23. The department will host a postdoctoral fellow to help organize the seminars and coordinate a related discussion of research methods with MA and PhD students from across campus. Sawyer seminars are intended as temporary research centers devoted to interdisciplinary inquiry. The program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments and named in honor of the Mellon Foundation's third president, John E. Sawyer.
Gómez and Kurczynski will bring together invited guests with scholars from different fields across the Five Colleges, including history, art history, anthropology, English, Afro-American studies, Asian studies, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx studies, and women, gender, and sexuality studies, in order to examine the historic and contemporary significance of race in shaping cultural identity and political representation. In addition to art historical scholarship, the seminar will explore the possibilities for all forms of visual media to serve as spaces for anti-colonial activism with the potential to redefine the visual landscape and open new possibilities for productive social engagement.
With an eye toward inviting dialogue with a broader public beyond the halls of academia, Gómez and Kurczynski built into the grant proposal the commission of a community art work. They are partnering with the organization El Corazón/The Heart of Holyoke to design a call for artists to come and work directly with the Puerto Rican immigrant community in Holyoke and create a new art work or other public engagement. El Corazón was co-founded by UMass architecture professors Joseph Krupczynski and Caryn Brause with local activists and the City of Holyoke’s Office of Planning and Economic Development as a “placemaking” forum to revitalize downtown Holyoke through art and architectural installations. With an emphasis on social justice, the seminar hopes to encourage broader and more inclusive participation in the arts in the Pioneer Valley beyond the traditional sites and definitions of art making.