News: Press Releases

May 18, 2017

President Meehan awards $256K to arts and humanities initiatives

  • The UMass System
Grant program aims to increase cultural, creative resources of the Commonwealth

BOSTON — University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan today announced $256,000 in funding from the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund for 10 unique faculty projects spanning the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

The grants fund a wide variety of projects, including an initiative to help pregnant teenagers stay in school, a writing workshop for low-to-moderate income students, a partnership program to match creative high school juniors with practicing artists, and an oral history project on 1980s hip-hop artists from Massachusetts.

“With these grants, we are strengthening community ties and investing in the artistic and cultural heritage of the Commonwealth,” President Meehan said. “These innovative faculty projects will benefit the state’s economy and enrich our quality of life.”

The Creative Economy Initiatives Fund was launched in 2007 to complement the Science & Technology Initiatives Fund, established in 2004. From its inception, the Creative Economy Fund has embraced a broad mission to increase the cultural resources of the Commonwealth, thereby making Massachusetts a more attractive place in which to live, work, raise families and invest. 

Since 2007, the fund has awarded more than $3 million in grants. The fund has supported preservation of the W.E.B. Du Bois boyhood home in Great Barrington, helped establish the Lowell Youth Orchestra and a permanent Jack Kerouac education and tourism site in Lowell, and generated major studies of the film and electronic gaming industries in Massachusetts. It has brought UMass Dartmouth students together with Durfee High School students to create a photographic history of Fall River’s neighborhoods, promoted a workers’ upholstery coop in Springfield and sponsored numerous music, dance and theatre performances in Boston, Amherst and Lowell.

This year’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund award winners are as follows:

UMass Amherst:

  • Edie Meidav, Dept. of English, “UMass MFA Story Hour.” Prof. Meidav and UMA MFA students will work with the Holyoke Care Center, a well-supported community resource assisting pregnant Holyoke teenagers who might otherwise drop out of school, and with New England Public Radio studios in Springfield. Through these alliances, at-risk, primarily Puerto Rican, pregnant and parenting teens will learn journalistic and narrative skills and radio production, building both job skills and a sense of self-worth and self-determination. Award: $25,000

UMass Boston:

  • Stephan Manning and Stanislav Vavilov, College of Management, “Creative Solutions for the Poor: How Boston Entrepreneurs Mobilize Creative Resources to Serve the Bottom of the Pyramid.” By analyzing Boston-area creative resources (personnel and intellectual property) that are specifically directed toward the needs of the World’s “Bottom of the Pyramid” populations, particularly in Africa, this project will encourage Boston-area research and software development firms and other tech entrepreneurs to craft innovative solutions for the specific needs of Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) markets. Strong existing UMB links with the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and with Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia will be utilized. Award: $24,350
  • Russell K. Schutt, Sociology, Trent D. Buskirk, and Philip S. Brenner, Center for Survey Research, “BEACON—Your City, Your Voice: Building the Boston Area Panel.” This project will initiate an omnibus Boston-area survey about social identity, crime, health disparities, homelessness and feelings of efficacy to chart future directions for social science research and provide timely and reliable answers to key social questions. Extensive planning has been undertaken with Paul Grogan, CEO of The Boston Foundation and the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) co-directors from Harvard and Northeastern, which bodes well for sustainability. Award: $30,000
  • Jurui Zhang and Raymond Liu, College of Management, with Haiping Xu, UMass Dartmouth, “Popularity of Cultural Products in Online Social Media.” This project will investigate which factors drive the popularity of cultural products — particularly music — in a social media environment, addressing questions such as: 1) How can we help local and independent musicians build their brand names and develop their marketing strategies online? 2) How does the information contained in social tags reveal information, such as the audience’s perception of an artist’s position and audience consensus, and how can such information predict artists’ popularity online? 3) How does the structure of the audience’s social networks affect artists’ popularity online? The object is to help local musicians better succeed professionally and financially in a difficult and challenging environment. Award: $36,000
  • Jeffrey Melnick, American Studies, with Joanne Riley & Rachel Rubin, American Studies, and Rajini Srikanth, Honors College, “Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive Oral History Project.” The President’s Creative Economy Fund has supported this project with a modest grant in the past. The present proposal has two goals: 1) to provide seed funding for an ongoing oral history project on 1980s hip-hop artists from Massachusetts (which the proposal’s authors hope may lead to NEH “Common Heritage” funding), and 2) to support the formal establishment of the Mass Hip Hop Archive as a permanent collaboration between UMass and the Boston Public Library. Award: $12,000

UMass Dartmouth:

  • Anna Dempsey, Chair of Art History; Michael Swartz, Design; Ram Balasubramanian, Deans Office, College of Engineering; Allison Cywin, Visual Resource Center, “Connecting Patti Rudolph’s UMass Dartmouth and the City of New Bedford.” The goal of this project is to ensure that one of acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph’s greatest achievements — the UMass Dartmouth Campus — will become a regional and national tourist destination — one that connects the twentieth century modernist campus to its historical, architectural and educational predecessors in the nearby communities. Project leaders will develop walking tours of the UMass Dartmouth campus and New Bedford cultural sites — one augmented reality (AR), one web-based virtual reality (VR) — that both the general public and specialized groups can use to visit the campus and learn about Paul Rudolph’s architectural jewel and its connection to the region’s architectural, cultural and educational heritage. Award: $28,000
  • Kristi Oliver, Art Education, “Art All-State Massachusetts.” Art All-State is a partnership program between UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Massachusetts Art Education Association (MAEA) to match creative high school juniors with practicing artists in an intensive artmaking experience. Now in its 30th year, UMass Dartmouth will host the program for the third time in June of 2017 — a role and alliance the UMD team hopes to sustain. Award: $25,000

UMass Lowell:

  • Ellen Wetmore, Art Department; Steve Tello, Manning School of Business, “Art to Work Incubator.” The Art-to-Work Incubator is aimed at artists and craftspeople who want to develop their products for a larger mass market and thereby achieve greater small business self-sufficiency. The Art-to-Work Incubator will offer startup funds and mentoring for a cohort of visual artists based in Lowell, Lawrence, Dracut, Haverhill, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, and throughout the Merrimack Valley with the goal of channeling artistic output into innovative small businesses. This program is modeled on programs like Assets for Artists in North Adams, E for All, and the Artists Business Council Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship. Award: $26,650
  • Sue Kim, English Dept., and several co-PIs, “UMass Lowell Southeast Asian Digital Archive.” In March 2017, UMass Lowell was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the development of the Southeast Asian Digital Archive (SEADA) to catalogue and preserve materials related to the cultural heritage of the region’s Southeast Asian community. The NEH grant is to fund the processing, preservation, cataloguing, and curation of the thousands of items that UMass Lowell has collected. This Creative Economy project will focus on making this material accessible to the general public — particularly students — via several key partnerships, including the Lowell National Historical Park, the Tsongas Industrial History Center, the Lowell National Historical Park (LNHP), and community organizations such as the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA), SayDaNar Burmese Community Development Center, and the Bhutanese Community of Lowell (BCL). This project will leverage the NEH grant in ways of considerable value to the greater Lowell community. Award: $28,000
  • Robert Forrant, History Dept., “Lawrence Student Writers Workshop/Rising Loaves: Healthy Students—Healthy Lawrence.” This project will support a year-long Lawrence Student Writers Workshop. This program represents the third year of an innovative collaboration between the Lawrence History Center (LHC), UMass Lowell, and Andover Bread Loaf (ABL), an outreach program of Phillips Academy, to provide a free, place-based learning opportunity for low to moderate income middle school Lawrence students. The CE grant will fund the third year of this program, allow more young people than ever before to participate through the summer, and double the number of students worked with during the school year. Student writing during the program will focus on public health in Lawrence and promote the Lawrence History Center’s 2018 symposium on the 1918 worldwide flu pandemic that took over 75 million lives, nearly 5 percent of the world’s population. Award: $21,000