Three Department of Art and Art History proposals awarded ACT seed grants to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at UT Austin

This past July, The Department of Art and Art History shared a statement that underlined, “The arts should never be intransigent on issues of social justice, but a platform through which we strive to be better, more just, and more compassionate. We vow to redouble our efforts to create a safe, equitable, and just community.” 

Channeling those words into preliminary action, the Chair of the Department of Art and Art History Susan Rather mobilized faculty, staff, and both graduate and undergraduate students in the formation of an Anti-Racism Taskforce over the course of the summer and early fall. The taskforce’s mission was to strategize ways to advance the department’s prioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The taskforce quickly established key areas for examination and improvement within the areas of curriculum, recruitment and programming. 

Coinciding with the taskforce’s work was a new initiative – Actions that promote Community Transformation (ACT) – initiated by the Provost’s Office, which aimed to support and enable members of the UT campus community to carry out projects that promote DEI. Fifty-two new grants to campus members were awarded, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, to support projects within their local communities at the university. Areas of interest for ACT grants included graduate and undergraduate education, departmental climate, faculty hiring practices, staff and faculty promotion and retention practices, faculty development, mentoring practices and student recruitment practices. Three initiatives out of the College of Fine Arts were awarded ACT funds, each introduced by the Department of Art and Art History from across areas of Art History, Art Education and Studio Art. 

Antiracist Methods for Afro-Latin American & Afro-Latinx Art History

Art History Associate Professor George Flaherty, Assistant Professor Adele Nelson and Professor Eddie Chambers intend to provide emerging scholars with the conceptual and practical tools to conduct original, antiracist research and teaching in Afro-Latin American and Afro-Latinx art and visual culture. Their project builds a network of shared research interests, professional support and mentoring for emerging scholars, many of whom come from underrepresented communities at the university. 

Among the benefits for scholars include original research centralized with the Center for Latin American Visual Studies, the potential for collaboration on course syllabi, inclusion within campus-based publications, co-editing credit for open-access, peer-reviewed journal articles, and the organization of a conference in partnership with cultural institutions that serve Latinx and African American communities in Austin. The seed grant would become part of a larger, future research collaborative for Afro-Latin American and -Latinx Art for scholars working in overlapping areas of inquiry working to collectively intervene on the direction of their discipline.

Connecting Communities Through Art Curriculum, Conversation, and Change

Art Education Associate Professor Christina Bain, Associate Professor of Instruction Donalyn Heise, and Assistant Professor of Instruction Dawn Stienecker will conduct what can be best described as an action research project, in which art education faculty and students will work closely with community stakeholders, which include arts and museum educators, to identify what resources they need in order to address issues related to race, diversity and equity in their art curriculum. Based on what the group learns from stakeholders, undergraduate and graduate art education students will develop a range of curricular resources addressing this authentic and timely problem through class assignments, including videos, Powerpoints, lesson plans, webinars, and more. Resources developed by UT students will be shared with community stakeholders. 

This project has the potential to help undergraduate and graduate art education students understand how a problem (e.g., lack of diverse art curriculum) can be addressed by connecting with stakeholders, conversation and action. The grant outcomes also provide valuable curricular resources that are currently lacking in much of K-12 and museum education.

ACT: AAH First-Year Core Diversity and Curriculum Decolonization Seed Grant

Studio Art Professor Beili Liu and First-Year Core Program Director Megan Hildebrant were awarded funds to support concrete actions to revise or decolonize the visual arts First-Year Core curriculum of which each incoming class of students to the department is enrolled. Liu and Hildebrandt will make use of the seed grant toward collaborative efforts with the College of Fine Arts admissions committee and Scholarship Committee to actively recruit and admit minority students.

In addition, grant funds will be used to initiate a series of tangible steps, including student surveys, faculty training, lectures to redefine and improve the inclusivity and diversity of curriculum; and to encourage and support diverse pedagogical approaches in the classroom. 

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