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National Grant Supports Research

National Grant Supports Arts Diversity Research at UCR

(August 7, 2000)

The University of California, Riverside has received grants from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations totaling $580,000 for projects that study the impact of cultural diversity on society and the arts in the United States. These are the largest foundation grants ever received by UCR's College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

The research projects to be funded by these grants reflect the debates about western culture in this time of changes brought about by global trade, travel and cyber communications. The studies undertaken with these grants will focus on aspects of the social and cultural diversity of the United States. Professor Emory Elliott, director of the Center for Ideas and Society, will lead the research projects.

'We now live in a global society in which the diversity of the Unites States with its tensions and its social cohesion is for many the image of the future,' Elliott said. 'Latin-American, Native-American and African and Asian cultures are changing the social and cultural assumptions in this country, and those in other countries are very interested in what is happening here. These foundation grants have made UCR ground zero for the study and practice of cultural and social diversity.'

The boards of both foundations approved their grants in July. The center, founded in 1988 as part of UC's major initiative in the Humanities, carries out multi-disciplinary collaborative research and hosts visiting faculty to work with UCR professors. The center shares its research findings with the community through conferences, seminars and lectures.

'Such recognition by these major foundations brings national attention and great prestige to our College,' said Elliott, a distinguished professor of English at UCR since 1989. Elliott was a college master and chair of the English Department at Princeton, where he taught for seventeen years.

'The support of these foundations will make a lasting contribution to advancement of research in social change and cultural expression,' said Patricia O'Brien, dean of UCR's College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, in a statement.

The purpose of the $330,000 Rockefeller Foundation Grant is to establish UCR as a Rockefeller Residency Site where prominent researchers in the social sciences and humanities will come to do research and collaborate with UCR faculty. The grant will be paid over four years. Each year will have a central theme: global migration, cultural change, and social change, respectively.

The $250,000 Ford Foundation grant, will be paid over two years to support research and teaching in a new areas of study that the Center for Ideas and Society has been pioneering in the arts and humanities.

In 1998, with seed funding from the Ford Foundation, the center hosted a three-day conference titled 'Aesthetics and Difference: Cultural Diversity, Literature and the Arts.' The gathering of artists and scholars established a national agenda for examining how the remarkable cultural diversity of the United States has been changing the forms of cultural expression here and around the world.

The focus is on new ideas and perceptions of beauty in literature and the arts that are emerging from the blending of cultural forms from Africa, Asia, and Latin America with those that had already evolved from the interactions of European immigrants and the indigenous peoples of North America. Since the 1998 UCR conference, this subject has become the topic of major articles in national journals, such as 'The Chronicle of Higher Education.'

Among the activities the Ford grant will fund is a series of small conferences on the developments in the arts and writings of African, Asian, and Latino Americans. The first of these, planned for October, 2001, will be a one-day conference titled 'The Black Aesthetic: 1960-2001.'

The conference, which is open to the public, will join scholars from throughout the UC system and other universities with journalists and artists to discuss the roots of traditionally black art forms. They'll consider how African art; dance and music were

transformed by blacks in the Americas and how they relate to so-called 'mainstream' art in western society. A number of books will also result from the work of these conferences.

Obtaining such large and prestigious grants is in part possible because of several years of key recruitment efforts by the campus, Elliott said. 'With the support of the chancellor, executive vice chancellor, and our deans, the academic departments in our college have been able bring some the highest quality scholars and artists in the country to UCR. The foundation program officers were very impressed with the cutting-edge research and social commitment of the faculty when they made site visits to campus.'

The center's conferences have attracted increasing national recognition, which brought it to the attention of the major foundations. One such nationally prominent conference took place in January 1997: 'Frontline Feminisms: Women, War, and Resistance.'

It brought together scholars with survivors of violence in Kosovo, Vietnam and Northern Ireland; filmmakers; labor activists; journalists; and lawyers.

In October 1997, U.S.--Mexico migration was the focus of a conference that touched on how the movement between the two countries affects their economies, labor markets cultures, and communities, especially in the border region.

The center is known for teaming scholars from various disciplines for research. Social scientists may work with arts professors on center projects. Biologists or environmental scientists may work with anthropologists, or film scholars.

Today's scholars must rethink their assumptions and take a multidisciplinary approach to determining what makes a work of art important enough to preserve, catalogue and pass on to future generations, Elliott said.

* Center director Emory Elliott can be reached at the Center for Ideas and Society (909) 787-3987.

* The Ford Foundation's office of Communications can be reached at (212) 573-4825

* The Rockefeller Foundation's Office of Communications can be reached at (212) 869-8500.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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