UI committing $2 million to faculty arts, humanities initiatives on all 3 campuses

UI committing $2 million to faculty arts, humanities initiatives on all 3 campuses

URBANA — The University of Illinois is investing nearly $2 million in arts and humanities initiatives by faculty on all three of its campuses.

The projects range from pop-up galleries and an Illinois writers festival to theater renovations and using virtual reality to teach performance.

The effort is designed to emphasize the impact and influence of the arts and humanities across Illinois.

Fourteen projects were selected from more than 50 proposals at the UI's three campuses in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield in the first year of the Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities, launched last summer by President Tim Killeen.

The original plan was to provide up to $1 million each year over the next two years to support faculty projects.

But Killeen said so many strong proposals were received that initial funding was increased to cover more projects over a two-year period. The program will be revisited in 2020.

Ten of the 14 proposals include a faculty member from the Urbana campus.

"The Mythic Mississippi" project, by Professor Helaine Silverman from Urbana and Professor Devin Hunter in Springfield, was given $180,000 to help downstate communities identify points of cultural heritage to create tourism routes along the river.

In "The Art of Medicine," Urbana Professors Stephanie Hilger and Justine Morrison received $100,000 to work with faculty at all three campuses to bridge humanities and health sciences for students seeking health careers. It includes building a medical humanities curriculum for undergraduates and medical students at Urbana and creating "public squares" to bring together scholars, students, activists and others to talk about health issues affecting surrounding communities.

All but one proposal was given $100,000 or more, and eight will receive $150,000 or more. By comparison, the average grant award in 2016 by the National Endowment for the Arts was $25,000. The program uses money devoted to faculty development.

Resources and attention are often placed on science because it provides tangible returns, such as new products and business, but the UI system values the arts and the humanities just as much, Killeen said. He said the new investment will leverage faculty creativity to spur "initiatives that will serve the public good."