The Faculty Research Grants for the Arts provides funding for an annual collaborative public art project. This grant is open to teams composed of any combination of UVA faculty and students, and could take the form of performance or exhibition through visual art, music, dance, drama, media arts, or multi-disciplinary arts. It is also meant to highlight faculty research and to encourage the creation of new work that engages a University-wide audience.


PROJECT TITLE: Things Unseen


  • Carmenita Higginbotham | Associate Professor of Art History
  • Justin Reid | Director of African American Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
  • Maggie Guggenheimer | Director of External Relations for Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
  • Kevin Jerome Everson | Professor of Art
  • George Sampson | Arts Administration
  • Jane Kulow | Director of Virginia Center for the Book and Program Director for the Virginia Festival of the Book
  • Sarah Lawson | Assistant Director of Virginia Center for the Book

“Society must accept some things as real; but he must always know that visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and achievement rest on things unseen.”
– James Baldwin, The Creative Process (1962)

From Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, to National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, contemporary black artists are returning to the life and work of James Baldwin for inspiration. Thirty years after his death, this new generation is living out Baldwin’s charge: that artists be “the incorrigible disturber of the peace,” challenging audiences to critically examine themselves and their existence in various systems and spaces. Things Unseen seeks to creatively engage University of Virginia students in this ongoing and consequential movement.

In the City of Charlottesville and on Grounds at the University of Virginia, a critical reexamination of monuments, memorials, historic sites and buildings is currently underway. Through this proposed project, students will join this effort by reinterpreting their local physical landscape artistically, by using the words and writings of a collection of African American writers.

Things Unseen reflects a significant partnership between two University entities, the McIntire Department of Art and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH). Through community programs, scholarship, and digital initiatives, VFH seeks to connect people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. Since its founding in 1974, VFH has been especially committed to sharing and centering the “untold” stories of underrepresented and marginalized populations, with a particular focus on African American, native, and immigrant communities.

This project is a collaboration between visual art communities at UVa (Art History, Arts Administration and Studio Art), and the broader Charlottesville area (VFH and the Festival of the Book). It will result in a series of public art installations co-created by students and faculty in Spring 2018. Working with Justin Reid (African American Programs at VFH), and Professor Carmenita Higginbotham (Art History and American Studies), George Sampson and Maggie Guggenheimer (Arts Administration) and Kevin Everson (Studio Art), teams of students will identify various sites specific to African American history in the city or Charlottesville, including at the University and its Arts Grounds. The students will curate excerpts from the writings of contemporary African American artists and cultural figures, mining these works for passages or quotes that provide complicating nuance and context to each of the selected sites. Students then will artistically render these quotes by converting the words of these African American figures into stencils, and then power-wash the texts into concrete surfaces (sidewalks, stairways, etc.) adjacent to the sites.

Student participants will be drawn from a new course offered by Professor Carmenita Higginbotham titled Race, Space, and Public Art and cross-listed in both Art History and American Studies that will examine the physical, social, and visual transformation of public space by large-scale works and art installations. This semester-long course (Sping 2018) students will learn about intellectual and methodological frameworks for understanding the political nature of public art in the United States. In the class, students will conduct primary research, tour sites in the local area, and gather key textual material pertinent to Charlottesville’s racial history. Students working in Arts Administration, overseen by George Sampson and Maggie Guggenheimer, will provide necessary planning and promotional support for the project. As a precursor to Professor Higginbotham’s spring course, Maggie Guggenheimer’s Arts Marketing: Theory and Practice (Fall 2017) students will assist in charting spaces significant to the history of Charlottesville and the University in consultation with VFH director of African American Programs Justin Reid, and develop a marketing plan for the project.

This builds upon recommendations from second-year graduate students at the VCU Brandcenter, suggesting that VFH reach new audiences by taking humanities content directly to public spaces through power washing installations. As a bridge between this recommendation and the spring course project implementation, the arts administration students will learn about public art project design, community partnership planning, and project marketing.

The arts marketing students will be invited to continue participating in Things Unseen in partnership with Professor Higginbotham’s students, who will implement the stenciling of quotes at 5-10 public sites on and off Grounds under the supervision of Higginbotham and Reid. Additional community volunteers will be recruited from VFH’s Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC), a community of artists exploring books and printmaking. VABC artists have considerable experience with commercial printing and can advise on technical components of the installation. During installation, students from Professor Kevin Everson’s filmmaking program will document the power-washing process through film. As Everson’s students create an archive of this new form of ephemeral public art, their films will link discussions about African Americans, space and history in the greater Charlottesville area.

To connect this project with a broad, public audience, Things Unseen will also coincide with VFH’s 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, the largest community-based book event in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Festival will be held March 21-25, 2018, in various venues at UVA, including Culbreth Theater, and throughout Charlottesville. During the five-day festival, University students, faculty, staff, visitors, and community members will have the opportunity to meet and hear from one or more writers featured in the Things Unseen project. It is our hope that author Jesmyn Ward, or any of the eighteen black writers and poets featured in The Fire This Time, will be a presenting author at the 2018 Festival. Student contributors to the Things Unseen project will also be involved in a Festival program that will ideally include a public screening of the film made by Everson’s students. Finally, the Festival’s audience of more than 20,000 will be able to visit the power-washed sites and begin to learn and explore the “unseen” things that shape our collective consciousness and identity.

The learning outcomes for this project are both intellectual and practical. Students will combine classroom research with the physical process of art making as they actively reinterpret the physical landscape of the University and its local community, while analyzing and recontextualizing the words of leading black writers of the arts. Students will also learn about the history of the Charlottesville-University communities in which they live and contribute to greater understanding and involvement with these communities. Under the mentorship of University and VFH scholars, students will be exposed not only to the history and creative aspect of public art design, but also the business of marketing an artistic project while preparing documentation for future learning. Both aspects will allow students to gauge and measure success from the position of artist (as producer of cultural material) and administrator. An additional benefit afforded students will be learning how to present humanities content creatively to the public and deepening the significance of public art through active engagement with scholars and within ongoing community events.

In the latter months of the project there will be more flexibility in how the project’s work plan is structured. Specifically, there will be some fluidity in the composition of the students who will participate as newer students will be joining the project and students significant to its early planning will remain involved over the course of two academic semesters.

About Power Washing Stencils
Power washing stencils is a legal, environmentally friendly technique to make words and images visible on concrete. A stencil is laid on a dirty sidewalk (or similar area), and a power washer is used on top of the stencil to remove dirt where the stencil is cut. The result is a power-washed clean area displaying the stenciled word and image that shows up against the otherwise dirty ground. The image typically lasts for about three weeks and then naturally fades away. For a demonstration of this technique, visit:


PROJECT TITLE: (The) Other Lives

Mona Kasra | Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design, Drama
Peter Bussigel | Jefferson Teaching Resident in Interdisciplinary Arts

The word ‘lives’ in (The) Other Lives has a double meaning. Live means both to live or be alive and to be live as in performing live. New technologies urge us to reconsider both meanings. Internet technologies, social media platforms, and VR (Virtual Reality) headsets are not only changing who we are as humans, but also altering how we perform live on new performance stages—youtube, snapchat, IMAX, and videogames. New media art and performance is adept at exploring the intersections and overlap between these emerging modes of contemporaty liveness, combining the technological perspectives (A.I., virtual life, augmented life) and the cultural perspectives (community, poetics, entertainment).

This project navigates the space between these two lives—exploring how new and emerging technologies continue to (re)frame what it means to be and perform (a)live. Specifically, (The) Other Lives will explore the relationship between virtual and online performance (digital/mediated) and traditional performance (corporeal/embodied on stage). The focus will be on both the social and cultural implications of mediation, virtuality and new methods of connecting virtual and online performance with physical spaces.

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty members in Music and Drama and will result in a week-long performance installation in Spring of 2017. Led by Mona Kasra and Peter Bussigel, students from Video and Media Design (Drama) and Audiovisual Environments (Music) will spend the semester learning about digital and audiovisual technologies (sound, video, audiovisual programming, etc) and then come together to collaborate on interactive audiovisual projects. These experiments will provide the groundwork for a larger public piece, which will be co-created by faculty and students.

The learning outcomes for this project are both practical and theoretical. The performance installation will require research and hands on experimentation with projection mapping and digital performance techniques. Students will be exposed to both the affordances and frustrations of working with new technology.

On the theoretical side, the project will explore what it means to be (a)live and to perform live in the networked era. Along with the students, we aim to reimagine the possibilities of integrating Internet technologies, social media platforms, and virtual technologies into live performance, and to critically explore the 21st century notions of liveness and community. More importantly, we strive to enhance students’ understanding of the collaborative process by fostering a transformative learning space through interdisciplinary methods for teaching and practice.


Charlottesville Mall and Central Business District Master Plan, Lawrence Halprin & Associates, 1973.Halprin Collection, Penn Architectural Archive, University of PennsylvaniaCrowdsourced Cartography: Re-Envisioning the Halprins’ Legacy through Mapping and Movement

The history of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is well documented and by most accounts the 1973 Master Plan by Lawrence Halprin and its centerpiece Downtown Mall have resulted in one of the nation’s most highly touted urban renewal success stories. Now, more than 40 years later, a special project at UVa, is looking deeper into the rest of the plan’s unfulfilled promise. The project specifically focuses on the area just south of the Downtown Mall including the Pollock’s Branch corridor and the Garrett Street neighborhood that was razed during the urban renewal process, an area of the city that is facing major changes yet again as the city looks towards redevelopment.

Crowdsourced Cartographies, following the legacy of Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s innovative public engagement processis an interdisciplinary public art and mapping project that will deploy hybrid techniques and theories of dance, photography, and landscape architecture in support of a series of community-based movement workshops, resulting in a crowd-sourced cultural landscape atlas. The mapping process will build on the traditional atlas model used to navigate and understand the world for centuries and expand the boundaries of traditional single-perspective cartography to include more embodied, place-based interpretations from multiple perspectives.

This project, one of many initiatives likely required to provide opportunities for local residents to have an impact on the practical outcomes of a future design process involving the future Pollock’s Branch Greenway, contributes an experience-based engagement practice through a variety of methods including visual art, kinesthetic awareness, interactive workshops, and live performance.

The project, in part supported by a Faculty Research Grant for the Arts from the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts, brings together Beth Meyer, Dean of the School of Architecture and a noted expert on the history of the Downtown Mall and Lawrence Halprin’s design process; Katie Schetlick, a Lecturer in in the Dance Program within UVa’s Drama Department, whose choreographic work focuses on the politics of space; and Rob McGinnis, a Distinguished Fellow and Lecturer in the School of Architecture, who is a nationally recognized cultural landscape expert and landscape architect.

Image: Charlottesville Mall and Central Business District Master Plan,Lawrence Halprin & Associates, 1973.Halprin Collection, Penn Architectural Archive, University of Pennsylvania


Sound Cast of San Giorgio Maggiore Sound Cast of San Giorgio Maggiore
Expressions in Sonic Architecture from Palladio and Jefferson

A project by Matthew Burtner, Professor of Music & Anselmo Canfora, Associate Professor of Architecture

Situated between culture and nature, buildings respond to interactions with human and environmental energy. Elements of the built environment we associate with permanence actually change dynamically over time. They flex, shift and vibrate. Using special microphones and sensors we can listen to this material interactivity and recognize it as a latent form of musical expression. From the earth-bound foundation, to the walls and upper limits of the roof, soil, air, water and human activity in and around an edifice are alive with sounds. Like a giant acoustic instrument, performed by the environment, buildings sing. This project brings composers, architects, performers and historians together to explore the nuanced spatial ramifications of buildings as musical instruments. While exploring the interrelation between vibration and construction, we will design a new instrument for multichannel sound research, and we will create a new spatio-musical artwork examining phenomenological patterns rooted in the performance of materials. Our resulting artwork, Sound Cast of San Giorgio Maggiore, celebrates a unique connection between the buildings of Charlottesville and Venice through the architecture of Andrea Palladio and his disciple, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, like Palladio, understood sound and architecture as forces connected through harmonies. Just as he understood architecture as instrumental in creating the new nation, so Jefferson understood sound and music as a foundation of culture. As part of a larger exchange between Venice and Charlottesville, we will design a sonic cast of Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore and install it on Jefferson’s Lawn. Ancillary music historical research will investigate the music and soundscapes that fascinated both Jefferson and Palladio.

Matthew Burtner >
Anselmo Canfora >

More HereUVa Arts Magazine 

May Days: Crisis in ConfrontationMay Days: Crisis in Confrontation

A project by Kevin Everson, Professor, Department of Art & Claudrena N. Harold, Associate Professor, Department of History and Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies.

A film project that tells the story of the anti-Vietnam War Movement from the perspective of James R. Roebuck, a northern-born African American who studied at the University of Virginia during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Over a ten-day period of unprecedented student upheaval at the University, Roebuck, the first African American president of UVa’s Student Council, confronted a series of political challenges and existential dilemmas. This budding activist and future U.S. representative was the quintessential “militant insider” whose cool temperament and ideological flexibility proved quite useful as UVA appeared on the verge of imploding from within. His low tolerance for histrionics occasionally put him at odds with his white leftist friends, who frequently grew impatient with his judiciousness. And yet, Roebuck’s unwavering commitment to justice led him to principled positions in moments when others settled for political compromise. The political challenges and existential dilemmas confronted by James Roebuck during the ten-day crisis at UVA form the narrative center of this film project, May Days, which highlights one of the most turbulent periods in the history of not just the University of Virginia but the entire country.

Follow-up July 2015:  Thanks to support from the generous grant from the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, we were able to complete the filming of “We Demand,” a ten minute short which evolves around the antiwar activism of University of Virginia graduate student James Roebuck and his relationship with President Edgar Shannon. We have a rough draft of the film and are in the final stages of editing. We anticipate completing editing within the next few weeks and screening the film early fall. In addition to the film, we have original music from Courtney Bryan, a brilliant pianist who completed several versions of two compositions that dramatizes the political tensions on UVA grounds during May Day Crisis of 1970.

The film crew and cast consisted of students (most of whom are in Kevin Everson’s Cinematography courses), professors (Kevin Everson, Claudrena Harold, and Richard Warner (professor of drama who played Edgar Shannon), and outside artists. The filming took place between November 14-16, 2014 on and off the Grounds of the University of Virginia. Our locations on grounds included Carr’s Hill, as well as Lawn Room, West 50.

As was the case with Sugarcoated Arsenic, another film supported by the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, it is our hope to submit the film to several film festivals.

UVa Arts Magazine 


Design-driven Manufacturing: Place and ProductDesign Driven Manufacturing: Place and Product

A project by Jeana Ripple, Assistant Professor of Architecture & Suzanne Moomaw, Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning.

Design Driven Manufacturing is a creative response to the need for more education in this area. Through collaborative courses, workshops and Web-based resources, the project will offer a new dimension to the creative economy, exposing students across the arts and design disciplines to timely research and critical needs in the local community and region.

 More Information  In the News 

Being in TimeBeing in Time: An Audio-Visual Composition for Wind Ensemble, with Real-time Control and Real-Time Ensemble Visualization

A project by Judith Shatin, Professor of Music Composition in the McIntire Department of Music and her team, including Ellen Bass, Associate professor of Systems and Information Engineering; William Pease, Associate Professor of Music and Director of U.Va. bands; David Topper, Technical Director for the Virginia Center for Computer Music; Joseph Adkins, a graduate student in Composition and Computing Technologies; Nathan Trantham, a master’s degree graduate in Systems Engineering; and Paul Turowski, a graduate student in Composition and Computing Technologies.

Being in Time will draw on the interdisciplinary strengths at the University in music and engineering to create a robust system that will use new technologies to enhance performance utilizing live and interactive audio-visual elements.

 More Information  In the News 

2012 – 2013

Black FireBlack Fire
A film project directed by College of Arts & Sciences professors Kevin Jerome Everson of the McIntire Department of Art and Claudrena N. Harold of the Corcoran Department of History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies.

Through film, performance arts and a public exhibit, Black Fire will explore the complex history of the struggle for racial equality, social justice and cultural transformation at U.Va. between 1969 and 1985.

“This multidisciplinary project highlights how artists and scholars in the U.Va. creative community and beyond have relied upon, and continue to rely on, the arts to articulate new ideas about race, justice, community and the transformative potential of education in our modern world,” Elizabeth Hutton Turner, vice provost for the arts, said.

In addition to creating a documentary film, Black Fire will recreate the highly successful Black Culture Week, inaugurated in 1970 by the Black Students for Freedom, later known as the Black Student Alliance.

Black Fire Website 

The Stan Winston Arts Festival of The Moving Creature

A Project by the Fabrication Facilities of the Departments of Drama, Studio Art, and the School of Architecture
Fall 2012 – April 20, 2013

This Festival is directed by Steven Warner, Lecturer and Technical Director of the Department of Drama, Eric Schmidt, Studio and Gallery Technician of the McIntire Department of Art, and Melissa Goldman, the Fabrication Facilities Manager of the School of Architecture.

From giant urban mechanical puppets to wind-driven, beachcombing beasts to animatronic state-of-the-art movie monsters, moving creatures are a mix of joyful spectacle, precise engineering, fearless experimentation, and resourceful fabrication techniques. This interdisciplinary project will engage students from Architecture, Studio Art, and Drama in a yearlong collaborative workshop to research, to design, and to construct creatures that will come to life for The Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature on April 20, 2013.

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