McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund

McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund

The Office of the Vice President for the Arts announces the McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund recipients for 2023-24

The McMurtry Arts Grant is one of several faculty and staff grants offered by the VPA.

Four Stanford academic community members have been awarded 2023-24 grants from the Burt McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund to support interdisciplinary projects that will test new directions and possibilities in the arts at Stanford.

Deborah Cullinan, vice president for the arts, is thrilled to see this five-year-old program continue to generate visionary ideas from all corners of campus. “Once again, the inventive projects supported by the McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund promise to catalyze discourse surrounding the ways that the arts can shift culture.”

The Office of the Vice President for the Arts (OVPA) awarded the grants after a peer review process that involved OVPA staff and Department of Art and Art History faculty. The interdisciplinary projects combine Black studies and the arts in an exploration of Black diasporic identity in the Caribbean; employ performing arts techniques to initiate a conversation and raise awareness about the environmental justice implications of California wildfires; create community art practice opportunities to address grief; and use sculpture to prompt questions surrounding sustainability. 

Here are the McMurtry Arts Initiatives Fund grant recipients and descriptions of their projects:

Katie Dieter, Associate Director of the Program in African and African American Studies (AAAS)

Reimagining Black Diasporic Identity Through the Arts

Katie Dieter will lead AAAS Creative Honors Students through an exploration of Black diasporic identity in the Caribbean using a Black studies lens. Students will participate in workshops, art exhibitions, and panel discussions at the 7th Annual Rex Nettleford Arts Conference at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) in Kingston, Jamaica. The students will also participate in culturally immersive experiences in Kingston that showcase the country’s rich artistic traditions. The trip’s culmination includes a collaborative panel between AAAS and EMCVPA titled “Reimagining Black Diasporic Identity Through the Arts” in the winter quarter that showcases their experiences. Students will share a digital archive of the trip with photography and other creative projects. Photo credit: Brick Daniel Kyle

Scott Fendorf, Terry Huffington Professor of Earth Systems Science, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Senior Associate Dean for Integrative Initiatives, and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

A Theatrical Inquiry into Environmental Justice Implications of California Wildfires

Scott Fendorf and a team of participants will use performing arts techniques to initiate a conversation and raise awareness about the environmental justice implications of California wildfires. Participants will work with local communities in Northern California to identify environmental justice problems caused by California wildfires for inmate firefighters and farm workers. Through collaboration with these communities, they will conduct theater workshops to create and perform a play on campus that explores the personal experiences and stories of inmate firefighters and farm workers disproportionately impacted by California wildfires. The play will catalyze public conversations, talkbacks, and panels with experts, local groups, and policymakers to promote healthy discourse around the environmental justice implications of California wildfires. These approaches will help to create new directions for theater to address real-world problems such as environmental injustice, contributing to the discourse regarding the impact of the arts in future extreme environments caused by the climate crisis. Photo credit: Courtesy of Scott Fendorf

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Director of the Heartfulness Lab, Affiliated Faculty in the Medicine and the Muse Program, the Center for Asian Health Research and Education, and Stanford Living Education in the School of Medicine

Grief and Culture

Acknowledging that the arts are recognized as an integral source of healing that is sorely needed in a world ravaged by violence and disease, Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu’s project responds to the need in the Stanford community for safe places of refuge for those grieving, especially those who feel marginalized from mainstream places. Women artists of color will lead small group sessions in experiential learning and healing exercises through their particular art form. Communities are impacted by systemic trauma perpetuated within society through structural inequalities and expressed in our interpersonal relationships. Attending to grief in community context enables us to engage with others from a position of innate wholeness responsibly. Photo credit: Courtesy of Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

Krish Seetah, Associate Professor of Oceans and Anthropology and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

Can Art Express Our Loss for Biodiversity?

Krish Seetah’s project integrates STEM and the arts, providing an opportunity for reflection for a broad section of our campus community. A 3D-printed skeleton of a bison will be mounted and handed over to the student body, equipped with a GPS tracker, with the aim that a (Big Blue) Bison will roam across campus. This project will encourage thought on sustainability and conservation, as well as on the indigenous groups that depended on these animals in the past and what eliminating such pinnacle species means for our society. Moreover, the project asks: do we want to have vials of DNA and image files to be the legacy we leave of our natural world? With the launch of the new Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, this project responds to current activity around issues of sustainability that are now at the forefront of the university’s recent efforts. Photo credit: Holly Elizabeth Michaela Hernandez