The arts and humanities are key academic pillars at Indiana University but they are also much more; they are expressions of how we interpret the world, vital to sustaining our lives as individuals and communities. Here are just a few examples of the ways IU has supported the creative life on its campuses and across the state over the last year:
Fostering the connections arts and humanities provide
First Thursday Festivals
In the wake of the pandemic's spread, First Thursdays, produced by the IU Arts and Humanities Council, stretched into a trail to allow for creative exploration and activities while complying with physical distancing and other public safety requirements. Ballet students performed outdoors at the Conrad Prebys Amphitheater while music, painting, and more took place at separate locations across the Bloomington campus.
The widely attended First Thursdays Festivals were held around the Fine Arts Plaza during fall 2019, featuring music, art, and activities such as a new Humanities Salon inviting participants to interact with areas from comparative literature and India studies to philosophy and Spanish and Portuguese.
The arts and humanities have tremendous power to promote wellness and give people a sense of belonging during difficult times. More than ever, our students can benefit from the community-building that comes from sharing in performances and other creative activities.Ed Comentale, professor of English, associate vice provost for arts and humanities, and director of the Arts and Humanities Council at IU Bloomington
Partnering with Indiana communities to share the arts and humanities
At Indiana University, the arts and humanities reach well beyond the boundaries of a campus. In the past year, IU’s Center for Rural Engagement, the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council, and community partners in Huntingburg, Nashville and Salem, Indiana, launched a pop-up cinema series, creative writing workshops and readings, theater performances and talk-backs, artists-in-residence visits, professional development for educators, and music master-classes and performances in local schools and community venues.
Working with its many campus and community partners, the CRE has created a model for arts-based community and economic development that pairs university resources with rural communities to co-create arts- and culture-building initiatives.
In fall 2019, the CRE received the Award of Excellence in the category of Place from the University Economic Development Association recognizing outstanding work in quality-of-place initiatives.
Training to use art in treating eating disorders
To provide mental health counselors with new tools in working with people who have an eating disorder, IUPUI’s Eileen Misluk has created an art therapy training program for students and for mental health clinicians around the state.
Eating disorders distort a person's body image, but art-making, Misluk says, can help clients find a way to express feelings about their bodies that have been shaped by messages received from families, society, and the media. "When we don't see visual representations of ourselves in society, we begin to see that we don't fit in,” she says, “and that can create a lot of challenges and damage.”
Misluk is an assistant professor at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI and director of the art therapy program.
New Presidential Arts and Humanities Program
The IU Presidential Arts and Humanities Program, a reinvention of IU’s long-running New Frontiers in Arts and Humanities Program, was launched in January 2020. The program is named to acknowledge IU President Michael McRobbie’s ongoing support for artists and humanists.
In its first round of funding, the program made 27 grants and travel awards to faculty on multiple IU campuses. Funded projects include an exploration of the little-known life stories of Syrian and Lebanese Muslim Americans in the Midwest from 1890-1965, a book and accompanying video demonstrating Chopin’s challenging pianistic techniques, an anthology highlighting the writing and artwork of John James Audubon related to the ocean, and a workshop exploring the "history of emotions."
Artists and humanists throughout history have played a critical role in expressing the needs and feelings of individuals and society—today, that role is even more necessary and pronounced. Now more than ever, universities have a responsibility to foster the creation of new mechanisms for expanding our understanding of the human experience.Fred H. Cate, IU vice president for research
The Public Arts and Humanities Project
In spring 2020, during a time of escalating controversies over "fake news", Making the News: A Community Conversation brought community members, journalists, and media experts together to foster an understanding of the journalism process. It was the second event of its kind, aimed at facilitating journalist-reader engagement and building trust in news. Panelists and community members discussed topics such as news judgment, evaluating information sources, reporting on controversies and investigative journalism.
The project is led by Jason Peifer, an assistant professor at The Media School at IU Bloomington, and funded through IU Bloomington's Public Arts and Humanities Project, which supports new research and creative activities that benefit the Bloomington community and southern Indiana at large. Projects feature partnerships with civic or community organizations that engage the public.
Partners for the arts
Thanks to funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, one IU researcher will explore Hawaiian culture as a source of reflection on what it means to be human. In spring 2020, Michael Ing, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at IU Bloomington, received a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship to investigate new areas in the study of Hawaiian culture. Ing will look beyond hula dancers and beaches to draw on testimony contained in nearly a million pages of 19th-century Hawaiian-language newspapers.
Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities
IU Bloomington is now home to the Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities. The new center will foster faculty and student development of teaching, research, and creative activities that are multidisciplinary, public-facing, and socially responsive, thanks to a generous gift from preservationist and IU alumna Gayle Cook.
Leveraging a 2019 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Cook's support is furthering the renovation IU Bloomington’s Maxwell Hall into an integrated center that will house IU Bloomington's Arts and Humanities Council, College Arts and Humanities Institute, Center for Rural Engagement, IU Corps and Traditional Arts Indiana.