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In 2019, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the University of Washington a three year $600,000 grant to build upon previous insights about process-based creative inquiry through our 2016 – 2018 Mellon Creative Fellowships initiative.
The new Arts and Creativity initiative will build durable interdisciplinary relationships among faculty in the University’s performing arts units, develop new introductory arts curricula, cultivate the next generation of faculty arts leaders, and continue to support the creative research of Meany Center visiting artists.
Mellon Faculty Fellowships support junior and mid-career faculty in pursuing their creative research and provide opportunities for fellows to share their research and artistic processes and present works-in-progress with other fellows during bi-quarterly forums convened by Michelle Witt, Executive and Artistic Director of Meany Center.
Meany Center Creative Research Fellows engage in residencies of weeks to months to multi-year and are provided with time and resources to engage fully in the creative process and in open-ended artistic experimentation.
Read about the Creative Fellowships Initiative.
Read about Broadening Access to the Creative Process.
2019–2021 Meany Center Creative Research Fellows
Ahamefule J. Oluo:
The Things Around You
Ahamefule J. Oluo is a Seattle-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, writer, and stand-up comedian. He is a founding member and trumpet player in the award-winning jazz-punk quartet Industrial Revelation, and was a semi-finalist in NBC’s Stand Up for Diversity comedy competition. His 2016 autobiographical musical Now I’m Fine was adapted into the film Thin Skin, co-written, starring and scored by Oluo. Thin Skin premiered in 2020 to glowing reviews and won Best Director at the Harlem Film Festival. His new work, The Things Around You, is a piece of solo music and storytelling made from the objects, thoughts and people — and lack of people — around him during the isolation of the pandemic. The Things Around You will be available June 25 to July 2 as part of Meany On Screen.
Movement is a live show that tells stories of global migration through music and the lives of musicians. Hosted, co-created and co-developed by Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, the live show seamlessly mixes a live concert experience with scored storytelling and multimedia, in a visceral meditation on what it means to be American. Learn more about Meklit Hadero.
Third Coast Percussion + Movement Art Is:
This evening-length project celebrates a dynamic artistic collaboration through the blending of street dance and percussion ensemble. Choreography by Movement Art Is (co-founded by Lil Buck and Jon Boogz) will be featured alongside new music composed for TCP by Jlin and Tyondai Braxton, as well as Third Coast Percussion’s critically acclaimed arrangements of Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia. Learn more about Third Coast Percussion and Movement Art Is.
Camille A. Brown:
In a satirical fairytale about the five boroughs of NYC, this Jamaica, Queens native takes audience members on a fun, wild and daring ride through the stomping grounds of Hollis, Queens, BedStuy, Brooklyn, Harlem, NY, and the South Bronx that existed before gentrification. Learn more about Camille A. Brown.
2020–2021 Faculty Fellows
Jen Salk — Department of Dance:
This project is a collaboration between Prof. Salk and media artist Martin Jarmick, is an interactive dance media artwork that invites viewers to activate choreography through choice and play. Similar to a game, the piece is experienced through a mobile device or computer where audiences engage multiple senses to author their own flow and order. Salk and Jarmick will integrate dance art, interactive storytelling, and game design to expand their artistic language and discover new audiences and experience. Learn more about Jen Salk.
James Coupe — DXArts:
This project is concerned with the artistic use of “synthetic media” that is artificially produced, manipulated and modified, typically using various AI and machine learning algorithms. Synthetic media techniques are increasingly used to change the meaning of existing video and audio, as well as to artificially generate content. Examples include footage of Nancy Pelosi altered so she appears to slur her words, video of CNN’s Jim Acosta appearing to tussle with a White House staff person over a microphone, and films including appearances by actors who are no longer alive. These examples show us that while synthetic media offers numerous creative possibilities, it also presents significant problems and makes us question whether any image or sound- based media can be considered factually reliable. Learn more about James Coupe.
Carrie Shaw — School of Music:
Expanding Repertoire and Research in Vocal Music with New Accompaniment Technologies
This project was developed in response to the current COVID-related challenges of in-person rehearsals and performances for vocalists and collaborators. Prof. Shaw commissioned five composers (and plans to commission five more) to compose new works for her with the simple directive to create a work for solo female voice plus a drone of their choosing—either an electronic or acoustic instrument that (with minimal skill) can be used to produce a sound that the singer can manipulate flexibly in order to experiment with making subtle adjustments in each performance. Shaw will work with a choreographer and video artist to add visual layers to her performances of these works for self-accompanied singer. Learn more about Carrie Shaw.
Michael Swaine — Art + Art History + Design:
Double Blind and Reverse 20 Questions
This project promotes an interdisciplinary exploration of the connection between meaning and our relationship to objects. Prof. Swaine will stage a pair of performative games he has been developing: Double Blind and Reverse 20 Questions. These works reconsider objects (both real and imagined) through storytelling, metaphor, communication and sculpture. They are designed to provoke questions about how we “know” things and how we perceive the world. Prof. Swaine proposes to stage this duo of performative interactions on the UW campus – pulling a variety of participants and perspectives from across the university into the project. As a start, he has arranged to draw a diverse set of participants including faculty, students, and other university community members, spanning Art, CHID, Theater, Germanics and Dance. He will capture the essence of this experience in a short film. Learn more about Michael Swaine and read more about his work.
Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir — School of Music:
Six Moments, Six Perspectives
This project will explore what may lie in the space between performer and composer in a six- part series of collaborations with six different guests from a variety of perspectives who embrace the art of improvisation in different ways. Prof. Thorsteinsdottir will develop and record performances and interviews with six musicians doing this work of bridging the gap between composer and performer in the improvisation space and present it online. The objectives are not only to deepen her understanding and learn from improvisers with more experience, but to record their perspectives and insights into the process in order to further promote learning and research. She will utilize the latest technology to record interviews and improvisations, eventually making the series available publicly online. Learn more about Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir.
James Pierce — School of Art + Art History + Design:
Eccentric Sensing Devices: Using Art and Speculative Design to Address Privacy, Security, and Data Ethics
This project will design, produce, exhibit, and document a set of speculative digital sensing objects, which Prof. Pierce refers to as eccentric sensing devices. Eccentric sensing devices combine consumer sensing products and familiar everyday objects. For example, one set of eccentric sensing devices combines Nest Smart Home Security Camera with household lamps to explore the sensorification of everyday environments and the ways in which sensing technologies illuminate previously invisible everyday phenomena. The eccentric sensing devices practically operate as actual sensing devices. They also symbolically and performatively function as metaphors. For example, the devices described above function as a metaphor for thinking about a future in which sensors are as ubiquitous, normal, and indispensable as electric lights. Learn more about James Pierce.
2019–2020 Faculty Fellows
Audrey Desjardins — Art + Art History + Design,
Afroditi Psarra — DXArts,
Bonnie Whiting — School of Music:
Everyday Voices and Voids: Reclaiming and Transcoding our Data as Performance
Combining current concerns about the ubiquity of voice assistants with a rich history of exploration of Al and data in the Arts, Desjardins, Psarra, and Whiting’s research will focus on building a series of 3-6 performative artifacts that incorporate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology.
The invisible ubiquity of voice assistants—the Alexas and Siris of the world—has fundamentally changed how humans interact. Our minds and bodies have become entangled in a complex assemblage of information, technology, and devices. We allow artificial intelligence agents to listen to our most private conversations in our most intimate spaces, forgetting or ignoring the fact that much of this personal data is stored indefinitely. In this project Desjardins, Psarra, and Whiting will reclaim, examine, and ultimately transcode this data through an interdisciplinary performance project. They will create performative works using a combination of design, data-driven art, digital crafting, percussion, and performance to defamiliarize encounters with virtual assistants. Learn more about Audrey Desjardins, Afroditi Psarra and Bonnie Whiting.
Watch a discussion about the project on the Seattle Channel, moderated by Jacob Lawrence Gallery Director and Curator Emily Zimmerman.
Rachael Lincoln — Department of Dance,
Jeffrey Fracé — School of Drama:
Rachael Lincoln and Jeffrey Fracé continue their collaborative research on the intersection of dance and theater, creating performative duet work that equally engages movement and text to co-author narrative. During their fellowship, in collaboration with New York City-based composer/sound designer Christian Frederickson, they will expand and refine their duet, 11 Comets, and begin the creation of a companion duet for two different performers.
11 Comets, which Lincoln and Fracé began working on in the studio in fall 2018, explores the grief, intimacy, and resilience of a mature, long-term relationship that has survived an extraordinary loss. In their research, Lincoln and Fracé are pushing and pulling at the dominance of narrative, playing with the revelation and restraint of information that forms story. They’re asking how two distinct aesthetics can coexist and how they can find a balance between literal and abstract. Other questions informing their research are: What is specific and what is universal? What is ours and what isn't? What happens when we take our process to two different people? What will be unique to them? Learn more about Rachael Lincoln and Jeffrey Fracé.
Ted Poor — School of Music:
The New Identity of the Drum Set
During his fellowship, Ted Poor will begin an ambitious multi-year project committed to furthering the capabilities and function of the drum set in modern music. He will continue to examine the interplay between improvisation, documentation, analysis and composition. Poor will use real time audio processing to illuminate, enhance and augment the natural resonance of the drums, allowing him to identify and showcase the textural, tonal and melodic characteristics of the instrument that are otherwise deemed "problematic" and denied resonance. Poor is curious what happens in an artistic process when a common limitation is removed and an aspect of your medium steps forward unencumbered? Additionally, Poor is interested in the "power of suggestion" in music, and art in general. As listeners, he’s curious what we need to feel a sense of completion, and what we naturally bring via our imaginations to musical experiences to achieve a feeling of satisfaction and completeness? As performers, Poor wonders how we can provide what is essential, and nothing more, leaving space for each listener to interact and, perhaps unwittingly, complete the work in the moment to their liking. Learn more about Ted Poor.