OVPR, Arts Initiative grants awarded to 14 research teams


The Arts Research: Incubation & Acceleration grant program and the Creativity Lab research development program have awarded their first round of funding to support innovative projects that center the arts in research and creative practice.

ARIA and C-lab were formed and funded in a joint effort between the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Arts Initiative.


Seven arts-centered research projects have been funded through ARIA from a competitive field of 29 submissions, and seven projects have been selected for development through C-lab.

The ARIA program awarded nearly $290,000 last month for the first round of its five-year initiative. The projects, which were selected through a multi-step peer-review process, range in scope from video game design that fosters community engagement to the construction of an arts installation featuring wire sculptures that reflect on the complex emotions associated with caregiving.

Projects funded have planned exhibitions, performances and community workshops in Berkeley, California; Detroit and Flint; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York City; and Vancouver, British Columbia, among other sites.

The competitiveness of the application pool demonstrates the depth and range of creative practice and arts research at U-M. Submissions were received from six schools across the Ann Arbor campus, as well as programs on the Dearborn and Flint campuses. 

“The unique partnership between the Arts Initiative and the Office of the Vice President for Research that produced ARIA underscores our strong commitment to advancing the profile of arts research and creative practice across our campuses,” said Geoffrey Thün, associate vice president for research-social sciences, humanities and the arts. 

“We look forward to seeing the products and impacts of this first wave of awarded faculty projects.”

ARIA is accepting applications for the second cycle of funding until 5 p.m. March 4. Awardees will be announced in April 2024. 

The C-lab, a research development program designed to stimulate new work in arts research, recently selected seven faculty members as fellows. The one-week summer laboratory program also will contribute to the building of arts research cohorts among a wide variety of faculty. 

“This first cohort of C-lab researchers is a thrilling group of new faculty-led projects that I’m excited to explore in a collaborative setting,” said Clare Croft, director of arts research/creative practice. 

“The proposals pose creative questions, moving beyond conventional artistic boundaries to reimagine our approach to the most pressing challenges in the arts and beyond.” 

Upon successful completion of the five-day lab, each team member will receive $1,500 in discretionary funds to advance their research project toward new constructions, exhibits and performances, as well as future grant applications. 

“These projects mark a new era for research funding at Michigan, where artistic vision and creativity energize a wave of art making and arts integrative research that is recognized as a core research practice for the R1 university,” said Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative. 

“ARIA and C-lab are the spark plugs driving excitement and energy across the U-M campus in collaborative research, both across the arts disciplines and increasingly infiltrating those traditionally ‘non-arts’ spaces where the arts can kindle new ideas and ways of thinking.” 

Below is a summary of the selected ARIA and C-lab projects:

ARIA research projects

Too Much and Never Enough: Feminist Animations

Principal investigator: Heidi Kumao, professor of art and design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Goal: This project examines the political climate around women’s bodies using a series of experimental stop-motion animations and fabric works. 

Perpetual Sunshine & The Ghost Girls

Principal investigator: Lynne Shankel, Carole Caplan Lonner Professor of Musical Theatre Composition and clinical assistant professor of music, School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Goal: This musical theater piece portrays the capitalist exploitation of workers’ rights in the face of a national public health crisis. 

THE RISE: Chicano Cinema and the Mythologies of Change

Principal investigators: John Valadez, professor of film, television and media, LSA; and Colin Gunckel, associate professor of American culture, and of film, television and media, LSA.

Goal: This documentary film explores how 1970s and 1980s Chicano cinema advanced our national understanding of race, identity and what it means to be American.

St. John Street Memorial Park

Principal investigator: Benjamin Gaydos, associate professor of art and art history, UM-Flint.

Goal: This project creates an immersive experience engaging visitors with the St. John Street Neighborhood in Flint, illustrating how place-based monuments can be equitably reimagined in the 21st century. 

Detroit at Play — Empowering Communities Through Collective Game Co-Creation

Principal investigator: Jose Sanchez, associate professor of architecture, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Goal: This project will design video games that foster community engagement, specifically targeting high school students in Detroit. 

Variations of Sound

Principal investigator: Pedram Baldari, assistant professor of art and design, Stamps School.

Goal: This project presents a platform to facilitate a metamorphosis of violence into hopeful possibilities, using objects such as decommissioned weapons acquired from police to produce performances, sound installations, videos and music albums.


Principal investigator: Anne Mondro, associate professor of art and design, Stamps School.

Goal: This project will create a series of intricately woven wire sculptures that reflect on the complex and often conflicting emotions associated with being a caregiver and care recipient simultaneously. 

Creativity Lab fellows and projects

Shadows: Puppetry in Performance

Principal investigators: Christianne Myers, Claribel Baird Halstead Collegiate Professor and professor of theatre and drama, SMTD, and Jess Fialko, clinical assistant professor of music, SMTD.

How To Have More Fun

Principal investigator: Halena Kays, assistant professor of theatre and drama, SMTD.

What was Promised? Speculative History of Landownership in the late 1800s of Formerly Enslaved Black Americans Following Special Field Orders No. 15          

Principal investigator: Quinn Hunter, assistant professor of art and design, Stamps School.

Art, Agency and Decarceration   

Principal investigator: Paul Draus, professor of sociology and anthropology, UM-Dearborn, and director of the Detroit Center.

Cultural Hybridity through Graphic Novels and Art Exhibits           

Principal investigator: Wessam Elmeligi, assistant professor of language, culture, and the arts, UM-Dearborn.

Tension of Opposites: A Musical About Abortion

Principal investigator: Lisa Harris, F. Wallace and Janet Jeffries Collegiate Professor of Reproductive Health, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Michigan Medicine; and professor of women’s and gender studies, LSA.

Invoking Coyolxauhqui: An Animated Source of Creativity for a Broken World

Principal investigator: William Calvo-Quiros, associate professor of American culture, LSA, and associate professor of art and design, Stamps School.


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