Clare Croft to direct expanded arts research effort


Clare Croft, a dance historian, theorist and curator who has spearheaded national efforts to strengthen arts infrastructure, has been appointed to a new leadership position designed to expand and integrate the arts in faculty research across the University of Michigan.

Her three-year appointment as the university’s inaugural director of arts research / creative practice took effect Aug. 28.

Photo of Clare Croft
Clare Croft

The Arts Initiative, in partnership with the Office of the Vice President for Research, created the position as part of a broader effort to emphasize the value of the arts within the context of a leading public research university.

“As a scholar, teacher, audience member and dancer, I know firsthand that the arts are a field of study and inquiry that fosters critical, deliberative and imaginative thinking, and does so with an emphasis on collaboration, even care,” said Croft, associate professor of American culture and of women’s and gender studies in LSA, and associate professor of music in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

“The arts must be a crucial piece of life at a research university, as they bring what scientists might call new discoveries; what social scientists might call new perspectives; and what humanists might call new insights. I am excited to develop new funding programs and support systems to assist my fellow faculty members in deepening and elevating their work.”

As director, Croft will develop strategy, design funding programs and enhance infrastructure for arts research and creative practice across U-M. Her efforts will closely align with the goals of the Arts Initiative, a universitywide endeavor launched in 2019 to illuminate and expand human connections, inspire collaborative creativity, and build a more just and equitable world through the arts.

Croft will collaborate with faculty, staff and students across disciplines to identify and address needs and gaps within the arts research space.


With support from the Arts Initiative and OVPR, Croft will develop and administer a new five-year, $2.5 million program that is designed to support faculty-led arts research and creative practice. The program will announce its initial call for proposals this fall.

“As an educator, administrator and performer, Dr. Croft brings a tremendous wealth of experience and expertise to this new leadership position, and with her strong support and leadership, the University of Michigan will continue to push research boundaries by articulating a strong vision spanning arts integrative research through creative practice,” said Geoffrey Thün, associate vice president for research – social sciences, humanities and the arts.

Croft received a Ph.D. in performance as public practice from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined U-M as an assistant professor in 2010, and during her tenure in Ann Arbor, Croft has held faculty appointments in the Michigan Society of Fellows, LSA and SMTD.

Over the past decade, Croft has led research projects focused on the role of dance and the body in U.S. social movements, feminist and queer performance and theory, and experiments in how dancing and writing relate and overlap.

“Dr. Croft is a fount of critical insight, research acumen and innovative policy ideas, all combined with the dedication to make exciting things happen,” said Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative and professor of music.

“I am excited to partner with OVPR and Dr. Croft to center the university’s research mission more deeply into the Arts Initiative and, in turn, to use the energy and collaborative resources of the Arts Initiative to amplify our research efforts and their impact.”


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