News: Featured Stories

July 21, 2016

UMass President’s Office funds three UMass Boston visual art history projects


  • Boston
Creative Economy Grants to Fund Community Partnerships

Faculty and staff at the University of Massachusetts Boston have received a combined $73,060 from UMass President Marty Meehan’s office and the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund.

This year’s recipients are Susan Crandall, director of the Center for Social Policy; David Landon, associate director of the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research; and Rachel Rubin, professor of American studies and director of the Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society.

Crandall and Juan Leyton, executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), are using their $23,750 grant to work with youth in Boston’s Dudley neighborhood, which has recently been declared a Neighborhood Innovation District. This summer, CSP will conduct four focus groups that engage young people, employers, and community organizations in the neighborhood, giving the youth research skills and creating metrics for future research. The results of this "participatory action research" will also be used to develop an art project that visually depicts the research findings. The youth will share their findings at DSNI’s Annual Multicultural Festival on August 13.

The grant has enabled us to create a cutting-edge research/community partnership,” Crandall said. “The research will uncover gaps between public policy and the existing economic infrastructure in the Dudley neighborhood, resulting in effective, community-led solutions to facilitating access to careers in the creative economy.”

Landon and Jessica Rudden-Dube, deputy director of media, design and collections for Plimoth Plantation, will be using their $24,927 grant to digitize information about artifacts, past expeditions, and site records for Plimoth Plantation. As with the Center for Social Policy project, this will build upon an existing partnership.

“Certainly everybody in Massachusetts has an image of Plimoth Plantation and it’s about the outdoor experience at the museum. We’re really trying to find a way to add to that with some of the fascinating information that’s in these archaeological collections,” Landon said.

Among the items that could be digitized is this photo of a bone needle case and metal alloy common straight pins found on the grounds of the 1699 Historic Winslow House & Cultural Center in Marshfield.Landon says the plan is to use one of the Plimoth Plantation’s collections as a prototype which could then be replicated. UMass Boston graduate students will be helping with technical knowledge about the artifacts, with the ultimate goal of making material currently in boxes accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

“A lot of it is in paper files and 35 mm slides,” Landon said. “It’s great for long-term preservation, but no one gets to see it.”

Rubin will use her $24,383 grant to organize, preserve, and increase the accessibility of the Allan MacDougall Popular Culture Archive. MacDougall’s widow Jo Ellen Hillyer donated hundreds of comics, recorded music, books, and journals to the Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society last year. With the funds, Rubin can pay graduate assistants to organize the collection so it can be a resource for researchers. Presentations in local libraries are also planned.

“Music journals, political journals, local Boston history that I’ve never seen anywhere – everybody is just shocked. It’s just amazing stuff. The scholarly value of this stuff is incredible,” Rubin said. “There’s stuff I had to teach myself what it is – like a 54-inch record. These were sent to just radio stations – they play from the inside out.”Among the archive’s holdings is a Marvel comic with the Beatles on the cover and writer and political activist Eldridge Cleaver’s FBI Most Wanted poster.

“[McDougall] just went into the post office and took it off the wall,” Rubin said.

You can see more of the collection on Instagram.

Since it was created 10 years ago, the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund has awarded $2.75 million in grants.