The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is pleased to announce the selection of the inaugural cohort of Arts Research with Communities of Color (ARCC) fellows. Established in 2021, the ARCC program is an initiative devoted to exploring how social science research can contribute to a thriving and more equitable arts field through empirical research, theory building, and analysis, and to supporting a new generation of researchers invested in the field. This arts-centered fellowship program is the first of its kind for the SSRC and represents a broadening of the Council’s work that seeks to foreground the ethics of research and collaboration, academic-community engagement, and an inclusive vision of social research.
With generous support from The Wallace Foundation, the ARCC fellows will receive funding to conduct 12-month qualitative-ethnographic studies in collaboration with select organizations participating in Wallace’s new arts initiative, which seeks to understand how arts organizations of color leverage their community orientation towards resilience and relevance. Each arts organization has been paired with a specific ARCC fellow, who will explore the organization’s unique history, culture, and context with the aim of producing useful information for the organization itself and for community arts organizations of color more broadly. Collectively, through cross-cutting analyses, fellows’ research will also contribute novel, empirically-grounded insights to broader research and policy fields.
The ARCC Fellowship competition was open to early career scholars in the social sciences and humanities and consisted of a rigorous, multi-stage review process by an independent committee of expert scholars and practitioners engaged in community/arts research and practice. Evaluation criteria included motivation and professional relevance, research and practical experience, relevant cultural knowledge and experience, and commitment to equity and impact. Following the selection of a finalist pool, SSRC program staff worked closely with the arts organizations and Wallace program staff to identify appropriate matches between finalists and organizations.
Ultimately, sixteen outstanding early career scholars were awarded ARCC fellowships. Eleven of the fellows will begin their studies in late summer/early fall 2022, while the remaining five will commence their fellowships in summer 2023. The SSRC will begin a search later this year for two additional fellows to join the 2023 cohort.
In addition to their individual studies, ARCC fellows will participate in cohort-wide activities aimed to encourage intra-cohort learning and professional growth. These activities will include development workshops and learning community meetings with program staff and the ARCC Research Advisory Committee (RAC), as well as mentorship opportunities with RAC members. Through cohort-level initiatives, the SSRC will support the networking of early-career researchers with one another and with leading researchers and practitioners in the field.
A major goal of the ARCC program, for both the SSRC and The Wallace Foundation, is to help build a community of early career scholars, in particular scholars of color, to pursue innovative research about the arts that emphasizes equity and intersectionality.
Monica Patrice Barra (she/her/hers) is a cultural anthropologist, ceramicist, and assistant professor at the University of South Carolina. Broadly, her research examines the relationship between race, inequality, and geography in the United States. She has explored these topics over the past decade in collaboration with visual and performing artists, policymakers, scientists, community based organizations, and fishermen. Her experience and research has been supported by a variety of institutions across the arts, sciences, and humanities, including: The Princeton University Art Museum, the National Academies of Sciences, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Her writings on place-based arts, environmental change, and race have appeared in edited volumes and journals in the fields of anthropology, geography, and interdisciplinary humanities. Her first book, Good Sediment: Race, Science, and the Politics of Restoration, is an ethnographic study of wetland loss, environmental restoration, and Black placemaking practices in south Louisiana. She is currently at work on a second ethnographic project on heirs’ property and Black land loss in the US South.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture
Barra traces the center’s history, from its origins in student activism of the 1960s to its current role as a hub for African-American music, dance, theater, film, literature, and visual art. She also explores the center’s relationship with African-American communities in Charlotte and how it would like to see these relationships evolve.
Ying Diao is an ethnomusicologist and cultural anthropologist with research expertise in relationships between cultural production, ethnicity, and politics, and in the anthropology of religion, voice, and mediation. Her work has focused on the musical dynamics of cross-border ethnoreligious development and resilience among upland communities in southwest China and mainland Southeast Asia. Supported by the SEM Deborah Wong Research & Publication Award and AAS Publication Support Grant, her book project, Muted, Mediated, and Mobilized: Faith by Aurality on the China-Myanmar Border, examines how transnational sound production, circulation, and consumption become integral to the Lisu perception and striving after Christian faith amidst constraints and uncertainties. She earned her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, College Park (2016). She was a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany, from 2017-2019, and a lecturer at the University of Minnesota in Spring 2022.
Ragamala Dance Company
Diao works with the Ragamala Dance Company, a 30-year-old presenter of traditional South Indian dance in Minneapolis. Diao explores how Ragamala makes its art relevant to contemporary American tastes and how its efforts are perceived among its target audiences.
Timnet Gedar is a historian with commitments to community engaged research and social justice. She holds an MSc in Social Development Practice, and graduate certificates in African Studies and Museum Studies. Her work includes research, teaching, and practice in intellectual history, political and social movements, Black print cultures, museums, education, and community engagement. She is a daughter of Eritrea and a proud Chicagoan.
Gedar works with Chicago Sinfonietta, an orchestra that has sought for 36 years to promote racial and cultural equity in classical music. Gedar studies why the sinfonietta was founded, how it found its feet, how it has evolved, and how its work may have influenced other classical orchestras.
Nazanin Ghaffari holds a Ph.D. in urban planning and public policy from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is interested in navigating disciplinary terrain in urban planning, public administration, feminist geography, and social anthropology to highlight the racialized, classed, gendered, and sexualized blind spots and biases found within conceptualizations of public spaces. Her research concerns inclusionary and/or exclusionary strategies incorporated by signature public spaces governance regimes through design, programming, policing, and management processes. She also investigates how design and planning empower historically marginalized communities through artistic interventions and bottom-up innovations to advance social, racial, and climate justice. Trained as an architect, urban designer, and urban planner, Nazanin has over a decade of professional experience with the United Nations Development Programme, UN-Habitat Mitigation Office, Asia-Pacific Slum Upgrading Working Group, Tehran Municipality Research Center, private design firms, grassroots and community organizations in the Middle East and North Texas.
Ghaffari works with the Rebuild Foundation, an artist-led, neighborhood-based cultural organization on the South Side of Chicago. Ghaffari studies how the Rebuild Foundation has and could use its physical space and location to strengthen its community, serve as a voice for the community, and help the community reverse the effects of discriminatory practices that have long acted against it.
Gregory-Kameka’s most recent research focuses on sociology of the role of arts organizations and their cultural policy landscape in sustaining or disrupting racial capitalism (Robinson, 1983). Her doctoral work (2015-20) was the first piece of research to fully document the closure, aftermath and legacy creation of a Black-led arts organization; the first empirical analysis of what happens at this point of stress. Such closures often happen quickly and are complex. They are sometimes documented after the fact using document analysis and archival material. However, this empirical, data-rich analysis of what happens in real time when an organization implodes is important because it bridges the gap between what policy documents say about the role and function of what policy calls “cultural diversity in the arts” and what happens (and is needed) on the ground. Among other things, her work asks, what is the importance of Black space in the arts in multiple locations across the Black Atlantic, and how is that space created, contested and supported in the pandemic age?
Gregory-Kameka works with BlackStar, a film organization in Philadelphia that highlights the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists. Gregory-Kameka explores the relationships that have allowed the organization to thrive and could help it continue to grow. In particular, Gregory-Kameka studies the apparent effects of physical locations on BlackStar and its target audiences, an issue of particular concern as gentrification disperses communities that support organizations such as BlackStar.
Dr. Cameron Herman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and an affiliate faculty member in Africana Studies at Buffalo State College. His teaching and research broadly focuses on understanding the ways marginalized groups experience and navigate social inequalities in urban environments. Cameron has published solo and collaborative journal articles, chapters in edited volumes and online publications on a range of topics including Black artists’ response to gentrification, housing activism and neoliberal governance, Black masculinity in hip hop. In the wake of COVID-19’s onset, Cameron’s research agenda has expanded through collaborations with community partners and equity-minded scholars in the UB Food Systems and Healthy Communities lab to support community-based responses to inequitable food systems in Buffalo, NY. In his free time, Cameron enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, exploring neighborhoods on his bicycle and photographing everyday life.
Herman works with 1Hood Media, an arts, education, and social justice organization in Pittsburgh. He explores how the organization started, evolved, and arrived at the particular mix of art and activism that defines it today. By learning more about the organization’s past, Herman and 1Hood hope to identify the people, skills, and capabilities that have helped it thrive and could pave its path into the future.
Raquel’s research explores socially-engaged creative practices and the distinct place-based logics that guide community arts organizations. This interest is reflected in her dissertation, “Taking Up Space: Youth Culture and Creative Resistance in a Gentrifying City,” an ethnographic study that examines how youth engage with public artmaking strategies to resist gentrification, while investigating how community arts education structures this process. Raquel teaches courses on art and culture at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and designs participatory community arts programs at the intersection of art, education, and cultural organizing. Her work has been supported by the Ford Foundation and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Apart from research and teaching, Raquel is a member of the Sirens Crew, an all-womxn public art collective working to feminize public space through a variety of visual intervention strategies.
Pregones/Puerto Rican Travelling Theater
Jimenez works with Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, a performing ensemble and arts presenter in New York City. Jimenez studies how the organization balances its commitment to its art with its commitment to its community and how it could use its twin focus to build a foundation for growth in the future.
Asif Majid is a scholar-artist-educator working at the intersection of racialized sociopolitical identities, multimedia, marginality, and new performance, particularly through devising community-based participatory theatre, making improvisational music, and addressing the nexus of Islam and performance. He has published in a range of academic and popular media outlets, and his performance credits include work with the Kennedy Center in the US and the Royal Exchange Theatre in the UK, among others. Asif was a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow with the San Francisco Arts Commission and a Lab Fellow with The Laboratory for Global Performance and Performance. He earned his PhD in Anthropology, Media, and Performance from The University of Manchester. Currently, Asif is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut, where he is at work on a book project titled Making Muslimness: Race, Religion, and Performance in Contemporary Britain. Asif can be found online at www.asifmajid.com.
Arab American National Museum
Majid works with the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Majid studies how the museum has grown and evolved since it was founded in 2005 to highlight Arab-American contributions to the U.S. He focuses in particular on perceptions of the institution among Arab-American communities, both in Dearborn and throughout the country, and how the museum could best use its ties to such communities to serve as a voice for Arab-Americans and to foster conversations among them.
Jason J. Price is an Arts Research with Communities of Color (ARCC) Fellow, working in collaboration with his matched organization to explore how social science research can contribute to a thriving and more equitable arts field. He earned a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from UC Berkeley and an Advanced Certificate in Culture & Media from NYU. His dissertation research, funded by the Fulbright Program, focused on the cultivation of endurance in a Pentecostal ministry in Malawi. His documentary short, The Professor, a portrait of former Interim President of Liberia, David Kpormakpor, has screened at festivals worldwide. From 2018-2020, he was Postdoctoral Researcher at IUPUI’s Arts & Humanities Institute, where he worked with equity-driven arts organizations to improve their reach and efficacy.
Pillsbury House + Theatre
Price works with the Pillsbury House + Theatre, a 31-year-old community-based theater in Minneapolis. Price studies how the theater presents itself to different audiences, how it can balance the needs of its community with the goals of its donors, and how it can use past experiences to improve future work.
Dr. Jason C. White is an Assistant Professor of Arts Administration in the Department of Art at Xavier University, where he prepares students for diverse careers in arts administration. An accomplished researcher, educator, author and theorist, White has published in Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, Innovative Higher Education, and Arts Education Policy Review. White is also the author of Innovation in the Arts: Concepts, Theories and Practices, a recent Routledge publication. White is one of the co-creators of the AAAE Undergraduate Standards for Arts Administration Education. Prior to receiving his PhD in Arts Administration, Education and Policy from The Ohio State University, White earned a BFA from California Institute of the Arts and attended The University of Akron; obtaining a Masters degree in Arts Administration and a Masters degree in Educational Assessment. Learn more about Dr. White at www.innovationinthearts.com.
Union for Contemporary Art
White works with the Union for Contemporary Art, a community-focused arts organization working to inspire social change in a historically Black area of Omaha. White will produce an oral history of the organization that includes exploring its relationships with its community, the conditions that have enabled its growth, the challenges that have held it back, and the assets it has used to overcome these challenges.
DeRon S. Williams is an Assistant Professor of Theatre in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Loyola University Chicago and a freelance director and dramaturg. He has published in The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama. His directing credits include Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size, Regina Taylor’s Crowns, Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, and Africa to America: A Celebration of Who We Are, an interdisciplinary performance written by Wendy R. Coleman. DeRon is also co-editor of the forthcoming edited volume titled Contemporary Black Theatre & Performance: Acts of Rebellion, Activism, and Solidarity, as a part of the Methuen Drama Agitations: Politics, Text, Performance series.
The Philadelphia Dance Company
Williams works with the Philadelphia Dance Company, a 53-year-old training and performance institute. Williams compiles a history of the organization, from its origins as an effort to create space for Black dancers to its current position as a respected arts organization and a voice for dancers of African descent worldwide.