Stamps School faculty, writer and performance artist Holly Hughes, working with 14 faculty from U‑M and midwestern universities, has been awarded an $80,000 research grant through the Humanities Without Walls Consortium. Responding to the theme “The Global Midwest” the grant, entitled “Perform Midwest: Incubating Collaborative Research,” will focus on performance as a means to explore midwest issues with global impact and lay the groundwork for a midwest network of performance artists.
Hughes’ project entitled, “Perform Midwest: Incubating Collaborative Research,” will bring fifteen artists and scholars from six institutions together to use performance as a tool to explore midwest issues with global impact, such as migration, immigration, land use, animal extinction, waterways and shifting demographics.
“When I heard about the call for proposals, it seemed like a very exciting opportunity to build on ideas I already had. There are so many interesting artists and scholars in the midwest working in performance and tackling big research questions. The grant allows us to explore a thematic topic together but also to forge new connections,” says Hughes. “We often miss the connections with one another- we’re in the habit of looking to the coasts to network.”
“Perform Midwest” is comprised of three interdisciplinary teams, each exploring a different issue. One team, led by U‑M School of Music Theatre and Dance (SMTD) professor Anita Gonzalez, is investigating migrations, waterways and Native American performance traditions, with faculty from Literature, Arts and Sciences (LSA) and Northwestern University. Another team, led by SMTD assistant professor of dance Clare Croft, builds on Jennifer Monson’s ongoing project “in Tow” to ask how experimental dance creates community and responds to ecological concerns, joined by colleagues from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern; and finally “Lion and Tigers and Bears” led by Stamps professor Holly Hughes and associate professor Deke Weaver of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, builds on Weaver’s ongoing “Unreliable Bestiary” project, which creates a performance for an endangered species. The work will look at endangered “exotic” species housed in the Midwest.
The two-year grant will culminate in a book, performances and conferences that involve both students and the public. “Our hope is that the conference and the book can break out of traditional academic formats.” says Hughes. “Our idea is to demonstrate the power of art to ask, and sometimes even answer, big questions.”
The Humanities Without Walls Consortium is funded by the Mellon Foundation.