2018–19 Mellon Grant Program Celebrates Arts and Humanities

In an effort to a build a more inclusive community, the President’s Office has announced 12 recipients of a grant program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"Last year’s Mellon-funded projects provided students, faculty, and staff with opportunities to experience the power of the arts to bridge differences," says President Valerie Smith. "Likewise, the projects we’ve funded for 2018–19 will allow us to celebrate the arts and humanities as a community."

The winning projects that will receive up to $10,000 in funding include:

Sonya Chen '18 Sonya Chen '18

Bridging Narrative through Art and Humanities  – Kaitelyn Pasillas '20, Sonya Chen '18, Josie Hung '19

Bridging Narrative through Arts and Humanities will provide a space for Swarthmore community members, regardless of their concentration, to engage in meaningful and impactful discourses on race and ethnic studies through the humanities and art. Proposed events include a Swarthmore faculty panel, a panel of professors from other institutions, academic lectures and workshops, art workshops, and an interactive community art exhibition. Each program will inform one another in order to foster holistic and comparative perspectives on race and ethnic studies in the Swarthmore community.

Osman Balkan Osman Balkan

Contending Visions of the Middle East – Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Osman Balkan (co-organizer) and Assistant Professor of History Ahmad Shokr (co-organizer) with participating courses taught by Assistant Professor of History Megan Brown, Professor of Anthropology Farha Ghannam, Associate Professor of French Alexandra Gueydan-Turek, Associate Professor of Religion Tariq al-Jamil, Assistant Professor and Section Head of Arabic Khaled Al-Masri 

Contending Visions of the Middle East aims to critically reassess dominant narratives about the region through engagement with leading scholars, intellectuals, writers, filmmakers, artists, and activists. This series will present lectures, workshops, film screenings, and student-led events to foster discussion and debate about politics, cultures, literatures, and societies of the Middle East and North Africa.

Randall Exon Randall Exon

A Conversation with Chester – Professor of Studio Art Syd Carpenter, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Professor of Studio Art Randall Exon, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Ron Tarver

Members of the Swarthmore Department of Art and Art History—working alongside Chester, Pa., community leaders Devon Walls, artistic director of Chester Made, and Akosua Watts, head of schools for the Chester Charter School for the Arts—will introduce Chester Made to the Swarthmore College community. Chester Made is a grassroots initiative that recognizes and promotes arts and culture in the city of Chester. During Spring 2019, classes in the aforementioned disciplines will be restructured to facilitate a series of collaborative workshops with Chester Made involving Chester residents and children at the Chester Charter School for the Arts.

Krista Thomason Krista Thomason

Ethics and Technology – Assistant Professor of Computer Science Ameet Soni, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Krista Thomason

The aim of this project is to encourage critical and informed reflection about the increasing presence of technology in our lives by extending Soni and Thomason’s Ethics and Technology Spring 2019 course to the campus community. Philosophers are often well-equipped to wrestle with ethical questions, but less so with questions of technology itself. Computer scientists often have the opposite challenge. By bringing these two fields in conversation, we hope that our students and the community at large can come away with a more nuanced understanding of the complex questions that cannot be answered by only one discipline.

Natasha Markov-Riss Natasha Markov-Riss '20

Feminism and Humanities – Shreya Chattopadhyay '20, Natasha Markov-Riss '20, Daria Mateescu '20, Sophia Moore '20, Citlali Pizarro '20

Five women studying the humanities will create a package of initiatives—both on and off Swarthmore’s campus—to examine, promote, and creatively weaponize the intersection of feminism and the humanities. They will screen films, host speakers, and visit local exhibits.

Katie Price Katie Price

Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary​ Art-Making Workshops – Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Programming and Outreach at the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility Katie Price, College Librarian Peggy Seiden

This project will link the Swarthmore campus community with the Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project by bringing individuals who have been resettled to Philadelphia from Syria and Iraq together with Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff. Participants will co-create an artists’ book or books for inclusion in the project’s culminating Spring 2019 exhibitions at Swarthmore College and in Philadelphia.

Sunka Simon Sunka Simon

Percepticon – Professor of German and Film & Media Studies Sunka Simon, Assistant Professor of Costume Design in Theater Laila Swanson, Administrative Assistant in Film & Media Studies and Makeup Artist Logan Tiberi-Warner '11

Percepticon will create three adjacent rooms with different immersive audio-visual installations and engage the participant to gain awareness of some of our ingrained, unconscious viewing, listening, and general reception habits. For the participant who actively engages with the different representations in the three rooms, Percepticon will create circumstances of uncertainty and moral complexity, leading to a questioning of unconscious biases and the status quo.

Chris Fraga Christopher Fraga

The Politics & Poetics of (In)visibility: Community-Building through Social Practice Art – Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of the Program in Latin American and Latino Studies Christopher Fraga, with members of the Latinx Students Organization (ENLACE) executive board and the Swarthmore Indigenous Student Association (SISA) executive board

This proposal seeks to mobilize the visual arts—in particular a relatively new form of contemporary art called "social practice"—in the service of exploring current interest in ethnic studies. Artist Laura Valencia Lozada of Mexico City will conduct an extended residency at Swarthmore, culminating in a site-specific work of art co-created by Lozada and members of the Swarthmore community.

Cam Wiley '19 Cameron Wiley '19

Reimagining Black Narratives: Considering the Dominant Archetype of the African-American Male – Cameron Wiley '19, Don "Donny" Thomas, and Louis Lainé '16

Reimagining Black Narratives will challenge the stereotypes, beliefs, and other limiting implications that surround what it means to be an African-American male. The co-creators will develop a series of video interviews with members of the Swarthmore community who identify with the black male experience.

Michael Ramberg Michael Ramberg

Resisting Anti-Semitism: Past and Present, Local and Global – Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Sa'ed Atshan, Jewish Student Advisor in the Interfaith Center and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Rabbi Michael Ramberg

Bringing together students, staff, faculty, and members of the local community, the College recently hosted the symposium Resisting Anti-Semitism: Past and Present, Local and Global, fostering dialogue on how to respond to and fight against anti-Jewish sentiments. The event dissected the issue of anti-Semitism by engaging with experts, advancing discussion, and providing support for Jewish community members while also exploring solutions to end hatred of Jews.

Alba Newmann Holmes Alba Newmann Holmes

Unexpected Homeland – Assistant Professor of History Megan Brown, Assistant Director of the Writing Associates Program and Visiting Assistant Professor of English Alba Newmann Holmes, Assistant Professor of Dance Olivia Sabee, Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Scholarship Nabil Kashyap

This project brings together students, faculty, guest artists, and staff members to create dialogue and performances that engage with one another’s understanding of homeland. Participants will share readings, create video essays, and take part in a residency by choreographer and dancer Christopher K. Morgan. Morgan will present Pōhaku, a solo dance theater piece that combines storytelling, hula, modern dance, classical music, and projection design to explore compelling, universal themes in the story of Hawaii’s native people, including land loss and fractured identity.

Jasmine RashidJasmine Rashid '18

VISIBILITY — Jasmine Rashid '18, Emma Walker '20, Samira Saunders '18, Olivia Robbins '21, James Howard '18, James Garcia '19, and Shreya Chattopadhyay '20

VISIBILITY Magazine, a digital zine first published by the Intercultural Center in 2016, centers the work of Swarthmore students—particularly those of historically marginalized identities. This project plans to use the grant to sustain and expand the publication by printing more physical copies and sharpening its mission by organizing more intentional programming with the organizations and centers across campus.