Three faculty within the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA) will begin new roles this fall focused on applied research. Professors Christopher Robert Jones, Sandra Ruiz, and Liza Sylvestre will continue their research, teaching, and engagement efforts with the added goals of enhancing artistic research and pedagogy practices within the college and beyond.
The foundation of these roles lies in the researchers’ exploration of collective practices across difference, “minoritarian aesthetics” and “cripistemology,” concepts that critically reconsider art making by centering the “minoritarian” perspective in American society-that is, communities often excluded from artistic experiences like people of color, queer-identifying, those with disabilities and women.
Jones and Sylvestre are co-leading a project entitled Crip*: Cripistemology and the Arts. Their work applies Crip/Disabled epistemologies and experiences to arts practice and pedagogy. Jones, who is a research professor in the college and who teaches in the School of Art and Design, is developing experimental curricula and instruction for core art and design courses and leads the Cripping the Arts initiative in which they co-teach with other FAA instructors to bring Crip* principals and a cripistemological framework to the respective disciplines—in order to transform their teaching and syllabi with respect to disability, access, and crip-based epistemologies.
Sylvestre, a research professor in FAA, will continue her research and artistic exploration of Crip/Disabled epistemologies and experiences through curatorial and pedagogical work as well as leading Crip*:Towards a Disability Aware Cities, an oral history project that engages students, members of the Champaign-Urbana community, and Crip/Disabled identified artists.
Ruiz is an associate professor in the Departments of English and Theatre. Ruiz is also the Sue Divan Associate Professor of Performance Studies and a Conrad Humanities Scholar in English. Since 2019, she has served as a co-series editor for NYU Press focused on the topic of minoritarian aesthetics, and her published writings and curatorial work address this topic through and interdisciplinary and cross-critical theoretical lens. Ruiz’s responsibilities will lie in convening FAA faculty and staff interested in curricula and research focused on the arts of social change and performance studies. Supported by the FAA Dean’s Office, Ruiz will bring her vision for collaborative creation from her work in minoritarian aesthetics and training in performance studies to imagine and design with others a model for a new cross-college institutional approach that builds on the college’s gathering strength in this area.
Ruiz’s project, The Minor Aesthetics Lab: Experiments in Performance and Politics (MAL), operates as an umbrella entity that oversees multiple poli-art initiatives, such as The Brown Theatre Collective and La Estación Gallery, and other new international collaborative projects. These initiatives privilege cultural workers and art building across media, from theatre, poetry, photography, sculpture, music, architecture, collective curation, and dance to performance and video art with particular attention paid to experimental art practices.
More broadly, the goals of this new work are to engage established programs, educational units, and cultural organizations in ways that align with the university-wide effort to develop and incorporate DEIA strategies and initiatives. According to Dean Hamilton, hosting research faculty at the college level will catalyze efforts to revise current college courses, reorient instructors on how to implement these new approaches to their teaching, and create a supported space for this scholarship in practice to continue. “Outcomes of this work could also be in publications, exhibitions, performances, workshops, or more–with a preference for those that signal critical review and evidence of broader impact,” explains Hamilton. The hope is that these appointments will fundamentally alter and enhance how FAA teaches artists and scholars, and can serve as a future model for other institutions.