The Women of Color in the Academy Project will honor Clare Croft and Lester P. Monts at the 12th Annual Shirley Verrett Awards ceremony Feb. 13.
Croft, the director of arts research / creative practice in Office of the Vice President for Research, is the 2024 Shirley Verrett Award recipient. She is a renowned dance historian and theorist whose work has significantly contributed to the understanding of dance’s role in cultural and social contexts.
Monts, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus and professor emeritus of music, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his notable contributions to the arts and academia.
They will be honored at a ceremony set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the U-M Museum of Art.
The Shirley Verrett Award was created in 2011 by the Office of the Senior Vice Provost in honor of the late U-M professor Shirley Verrett and is administered by WOCAP and supported by the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, UMMA and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Verrett was a James Earl Jones Distinguished University Professor of Voice at SMTD and an internationally acclaimed opera singer with more than 40 roles during her four-decade career. She was one of the pioneering leaders in the generation of Black opera singers, and her legacy continues to pave the way for female artists from diverse backgrounds.
Croft is an associate professor of American culture and of women’s and gender studies in LSA and an associate professor of music in SMTD. Her work spans dance history and theory, gender and sexuality studies. Notable works include “Her Disruptions: Dancing with Jill Johnston” and “Dancers as Diplomats: American Choreography in Cultural Exchange.”
She is the founder and curator of Daring Dances, a curatorial initiative based in southeast Michigan that focuses on how dance — both watching it and making it — can help people find their way toward sometimes difficult, yet necessary conversations. Through that effort, she has collaborated with numerous Detroit-based artists.
Croft also has led community engagement work with arts presenters, including the Fusebox Festival in Austin, Texas, and the TBA Festival in Portland, Oregon. From 2018-24, Croft has edited “Studies in Dance History,” the book series of the Dance Studies Association.
Monts’ tenure at the university has been marked by his advocacy for diversity and inclusion, and his significant role as a leading scholar on music and culture in West Africa. He was instrumental in creating the Shirley Verrett Award, has served the university in various capacities, including as senior vice provost for academic affairs.
He also has served as a consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities, Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Ford Foundation, and the Tubman Center of African Culture. He is a member of the governing board and research associate at the International Centre for African Music and Dance and a member of the New York International African Institute’s advisory board.
The Shirley Verrett Awards ceremony is open to the public, and RSVPs are requested.