New grant programs support A&A projects centered on racial justice, student success, cultural initiatives

Brick and stone facade and columns of east entrance to Borland Building, all framed by green leafy trees.

The College of Arts and Architecture recently announced the recipients of three new grant programs that support the college's strategic plan: Racial Justice, Anti-Discrimination and Democratic Practices; Rusinko Kakos Culture Change; and Rusinko Kakos Student Success.

The Racial Justice, Anti-Discrimination and Democratic Practices grant program is funded by the College of Arts and Architecture. The Rusinko Kakos grants are funded by the Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean's Chair Endowment in the College of Arts and Architecture.

Racial Justice, Anti-Discrimination and Democratic Practices Grants The 2023-24 recipients of the Racial Justice, Anti-Discrimination and Democratic Practices grants are Amara Solari, professor of art history and anthropology; Blair Salter, assistant teaching professor and music director of Penn State Opera Theatre; and Lindsey Landfried, associate director of arts advancement with the Center for the Performing Arts.

Solari's grant supports her academic mentorship of a BIPOC graduate student in the Department of Art History as they work together to research Native North American artistic production, a topic understudied in the discipline. This project, which includes co-authoring a “state of the field” essay, alleviates the institutionalized biases of art history, granting an emerging BIPOC scholar research training and a publication that will inevitably be beneficial to their academic career.

Salter's project, titled “Voce Moderna: A Contemporary Aria Database,” supports the continued development of her database for contemporary opera arias and the recording of arias by BIPOC and female composers, showcasing the work of living composers while making their music more accessible. According to Salter, the performance of new music is crucial, and all singers are expected to offer a contemporary aria selection in professional opera auditions.

Landfried's project, titled “Cultural Reform: Whiteness and Change in University Arts Institutions Student Employment Programs,” is a collaboration between the Center for the Performing Arts and the Center for the Study of Higher Education, who have partnered to study the sense of belonging experienced by students and visitors to live arts performances and engagements on campus. This study will research the role of student employment programs in contributing to amplifying students' voices and decentering whiteness in policies and practices.

Rusinko Kakos Grants The recipients of the 2023-24 Rusinko Kakos Student Success grants are Amy Vashaw, director of audience and program development at the Center for the Performing Arts, and Carolyn Lucarelli, manager of the Center for Virtual/Material Studies in the Department of Art History.

Vashaw's grant supports CPA's Student Advisory Council and student arts engagement assistants, to allow them to curate and produce programming aimed at student audiences, with the guidance of CPA staff.

Lucarelli's grant supports internships in the Fashion Archive, which is a collaboration between the Center for Virtual/Material Studies and the School of Theatre. During summer and fall 2023, undergraduate interns will complete the inventory and photography of the archive, which is a crucial first step in realizing the broader goal of making the archive's resources available to a wide audience.

The recipients of the 2023-24 Culture Change grants are David Kersnar, professor of practice in theatre, and Brandi Breslin, director of education at the Palmer Museum of Art.

Kersnar's grant supports his theatrical adaptation of the “Hanuman Chalisa,” a Hindu devotional hymn written in the 16th century by poet Tulsidas, with a goal of cultivating an anti-racist global citizenry.

Breslin is using the grant to support the development of gallery teaching workshops for faculty members and museum guides. The Palmer's new building, opening in 2024, with a teaching gallery and dedicated classrooms, will create new opportunities for faculty members to engage in object-based teaching. Additionally, the museum's guide program will undergo a dramatic cultural shift, integrating students as tour guides and incorporating their perspectives into the museum's interpretive voice.