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Spencer Museum awarded $650K from Mellon Foundation to continue Integrated Arts Research Initiative

Thursday, July 11, 2019

LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art has earned a grant of $650,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) for the next five years. A 2015 award of $487,000 from the Mellon Foundation launched IARI with the goal of modeling how the staff, collections and professional practices of a university art museum can contribute to research in higher education.

“This new award for IARI builds on the Mellon Foundation’s transformative support for our institution,” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum. “Over the next five years, IARI will firmly establish art and artistic practice as integral parts of research at the University of Kansas.”

This second round of funding provides support for IARI’s curator for research position, currently held by Joey Orr. Since his arrival in 2016, Orr has focused the initiative’s activities around an overarching annual theme, such as ecologies and social histories. The themes are inspired by pressing topics pursued by KU researchers. To broaden and enrich these investigations, IARI invites external scholars, the university community and the public to participate in discussions, lectures, exhibitions and other stimulating programs at the Spencer Museum.

“Thanks to the generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Integrated Arts Research Initiative will continue to expand how the arts can contribute to research at the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “In particular, support for faculty and student fellowships will advance transdisciplinary research that engages the diverse collections and resources of the Spencer Museum of Art.”

Mellon Foundation funds will also sustain research fellowships for KU faculty and students. Since 2016, IARI has awarded fellowships to nine KU faculty members, three KU graduate students and nine KU undergraduate students across 14 departments.

“Through my IARI fellowship, I was able to expand my poetic practice beyond usual disciplinary designations in the university structure,” said Associate Professor Megan Kaminski, the fall 2016 IARI faculty fellow. “Through collaborations with colleagues in evolutionary biology, Spencer Museum Curator Stephen Goddard and artists featured in the museum’s ‘Big Botany’ exhibition, I found ideas, language and inspiration that reinvigorated my practice and creative production as well as my teaching and public-facing work in the environmental arts and humanities.”

The grant will also enable the Spencer Museum to engage consultants to evaluate practices and technologies for archiving and sharing content generated by IARI and across the institution. This assessment will improve digital access to the museum’s research and resources.

“The combination of Reece Hardy’s leadership and the innovation of the IARI framework is a compelling model for the field,” said Alison Gilchrest, Mellon Foundation program officer. “With renewed support, the Spencer will continue to expand the ways in which an academic art museum can serve as a generative site for original research within the university context.”

Photo: Andrew W. Mellon Curator for Research Joey Orr leads a discussion for the Integrated Arts Research Initiative.