Art History

Spencer Museum of Art Receives $3 Million Endowment Gift from Arts Research Integration | Pro Club Bd

LAWRENCE – The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has received a $3 million donation from Kansas City-based donor Margaret H. Silva to fund Arts Research Integration (ARI), a groundbreaking initiative involves artists in a variety of research processes through interdisciplinary collaborations. Additionally, Silva has offered to support a Spencer Museum-led challenge grant of up to an additional $1 million in financial support for the initiative. These gifts build on Silva’s previous contributions to ARI, which began in 2018, and recognize the initiative’s importance of making art the core of study and the manifestation of ideas. The donation is essential to advance ARI’s work on current projects, including those with artists Janine Antoni, Simon Denny and Stephanie Dinkins, and to ensure ARI’s future as an incubator for new research approaches and the development of new models for museums Engage artists and communities. Silva’s donation is managed by KU Endowment, the foundation that supports KU.

The Spencer Museum first initiated ARI in 2016 with a four-year grant from the Mellon Foundation. The initiative enabled the Spencer to embed artists directly in high-level research activity at KU and enhance the university’s research ecology by positioning the creation of art as an essential research method in its own right – one crucial to breaking down barriers and supporting the public Understanding of current and relevant topics. At the heart of the initiative are public participation opportunities that support knowledge sharing and encourage greater community participation. Recent projects completed through ARI include a collaboration between artist Janet Biggs, then KU mathematician Agnieszka Międlar and KU physicist Daniel Tapia Takaki, who also leads a team at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Her work examined questions of high-energy physics and applied novel mathematical techniques to the production of videos and performances, resulting in an exhibition and numerous public and academic lectures in the United States and abroad. This type of project emphasizes process and dialogue, leaving plenty of room for discovery and opening traditional research paradigms to new structures and approaches.

“ARI brings artists together with researchers, scholars, professors and students to explore issues deeply relevant to our lives and communities, placing creative practices at the heart of the inquiry and innovation process. It’s all about moving beyond conversations about the meaning of art and making art a part of the study and exploration of our world and an integral part of addressing pressing issues,” said Joey Orr, ARI’s Mellon Curator for Research. “We are deeply grateful to Margaret Silva for her continued support and for her impactful endowment donation that will allow ARI to continue to grow and thrive well into the future.”

Margaret H Silva“I look forward to continuing to support ARI’s important work at Spencer,” said Silva. “Art and artists have an incredible way of asking big questions, challenging current and outdated thinking, stimulating change and creating solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. I have proudly supported daring, provocative and forward-thinking art projects over many years and continue this personal mission with my contributions to this initiative. I look forward to engaging with the many upcoming projects and ideas that will result from ARI’s exciting work.”

ARI builds on a long history of ambitious, interdisciplinary initiatives and projects at the Spencer Museum. As early as the 1970s, the museum leadership began to advocate for educational models that integrate art into the overall curriculum study. This approach, a groundbreaking vision for the role of the arts at the time, has become standard at many universities across the United States. Over the decades, the Spencer Museum has continued to innovate on its vision of blending art with science, technology, and the humanities, using its resources to create new ways of learning. In recent history, this has led to programs such as Hybrid Practices, an international conference in 2015 that featured a wide range of speakers and performative and creative projects focused on collaborative arts, science, and technology research from the past 50 years . The conference was the culmination of three years of work led by Saralyn Reece Hardy, Spencer’s Marilyn Stokstad director; Celka Straughn, Mellon Director of Academic Programs; and Stephen Goddard, the museum’s senior curator at the time.

“The Spencer has long believed that the arts play an important role in shaping policy, developing new technologies, and engaging with and connecting with the natural and built world around us. Art has the power to move us and bring us together. It offers different ways of seeing, thinking and experiencing that are essential for discovery and progress. ARI is part of a long-standing interdisciplinary and collaborative work led by Spencer, and we are so grateful to Margaret for her endowment, which safeguards and safeguards this ongoing work at the museum,” said Reece Hardy. “While ARI has focused on contemporary art and artists in recent years, the initiative’s long-term vision is to activate the entire museum and its collections across time and culture. Margaret’s incredible contribution is essential to this growth.”

ARI is currently involved in two ongoing projects with artists. One connects New York-based Bahamian artist Janine Antoni with researchers at the KU Field Station at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research. The Field Station offers more than 3,700 acres of diverse native and managed habitats available for new research purposes. For the project, Antoni is particularly focused on the prairie ecosystem, one of the most diverse and endangered ecosystems outside of the rainforest and one that has all but disappeared from the United States. Antoni, whose artistic practice actively involves the body, collaborates with researchers to explore connections between the complexity of the prairie environment and the human body. Specifically, she creates a labyrinth in the form of human ear anatomy in the countryside, inviting people to walk a path and meditate on subjects such as human anatomy, listening, embodiment, ecosystems, wildlife, and cultural history. The project began last spring with mandatory field burning, a natural process that rejuvenates the prairie, with the assistance of Field Station researchers. Antoni joined this important ecological restoration with a ritual experience for the public that allowed them to connect with the land through personal acts of healing. When people enter into a relationship of reciprocity with the earth, both people and the environment can thrive. Central to the project is an invitation to the public to return to the body through a close relationship with the land.

“I do my best work when I have the flexibility to respond to my own process,” Antoni said. “The country tells us something and I answer. Part of what makes my work through ARI special is the opportunity to respect the process and listen to all of our human and non-human employees.”

ARI is also currently working with Brooklyn-based artist Stephanie Dinkins, Berlin-based artist Simon Denny, and AT&T Foundation Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Perry Alexander on a project using blockchain technology. The project is a collaboration with the Institute for Information Science, one of the largest research centers at the KU, and The History of Black Writing, a research unit dedicated to restoration work in Black literary studies. The commission is partially supported by a grant from Ripple, a Silicon Valley finance company. The group’s primary interests include challenging the claims of technology, securing timelines and means of transactions, using poetic breaks in history, and stimulating conversations about parallel stories, redemptions, technology, art and more.

About Margaret H Silva

Margaret H. Silva, a philanthropist and arts advocate, has supported the work of artists for more than three decades. Hailing from the Midwest, her passion is the result of her lifelong involvement with art and artists and her belief in the power and importance of creative experience and endeavor. In 1995, she founded and funded Grand Arts, a non-profit contemporary art space in Kansas City. Over the course of 20 years, Grand Arts has helped more than 100 national and international artists to realize dynamic and provocative projects, promoting dialogue and new thinking about societal problems and issues at large. Although Grand Arts closed in 2015 and Silva officially retired, the organization’s ethos lives on in a new endeavor titled Fathomers, created by the staff and associates of Grand Arts. Since then, Silva has continued to support the arts through her philanthropy.

About the KU Foundation

KU Endowment is the independent, not-for-profit organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund management organization for KU. Established in 1891, the KU Endowment was the first of its kind in a US public university.

Picture above: CERN ARI project. Credit: Ryan Waggoner, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas.

Right picture: Margaret H Silva.

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