AAI Announces Recipients for Arts & Humanities Grant

The Achievement and Assessment Institute

After reviewing many excellent proposals, The Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI) in the University of Kansas’ School of Education and Human Sciences is pleased to announce the recipients of the organization’s first-ever Arts & Humanities Grant.

Work in AAI focuses on enhancing educational opportunity; optimizing the well-being of children, youth, and families, creating accessible assessment systems that better support student learning, especially for struggling learners, and creating educational technologies and data systems that support students, teachers, and organizations.

The two winning proposals strongly align with these areas of focus, through interactive arts programming that deeply engages community and creates dialogue around issues of marginalization and social justice.

Ryan D. Clifford, Assistant Professor of Design and Visual Communication, was awarded for his proposed RadLab! DIY Youth Creative Workshop Series.

According to Clifford, RadLab! will be a popup youth workshop experience focused on engaging at-risk youth—particularly LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC youth—in creative collabora­tion, co-design, and DIY zine and bookmaking. RadLab! will take place at Wonder Fair’s Wonder Gallery in Spring/Summer of 2022. Wonder Fair owners Meredith Moore and Paul DeGeorge are slated to serve as collaborators in addition to offering pro bono use of gallery space.

The workshops will culminate in a public exhibition of work created by participants at Wonder Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas, with projected pieces to include a papercraft robot, a personal journal and sketchbook, and two unique DIY zines. Participants will also receive a portable art kit that will allow them to continue creating after the workshops end.  

“Zines are an extremely adaptable, fun, and inexpensive method for creative expression and storytelling, and are limited only by the maker’s interests,” said Clifford. “An experience like this workshop series gives a creative outlet to youth who may not have had the opportunity to engage in facilitated creative skill-building and expression.”

F. María Velasco, Professor of Visual Art, was awarded for her proposed On Our Terms, In Our Own Words project.

Drawing on Velasco’s interest of the history of Topeka, the city’s neighborhoods and her research of the Mulvane Art Museum’s permanent collection, the project will “involve the creation of bespoke flags as vehicles serving to champion the collective aspirations of diverse constituencies of the Topeka community.”

The project will engage community through workshop discussions about meaning, history, and representation, which will be used to develop 7-12 flags to be installed at specific sites throughout Topeka. On Our Terms, In Our Own Words will take place during the Fall 2022/Spring 2023 academic year. Professor Velasco anticipates the participation of relevant community organizations and individuals, including The Tonantzin Society, a Topeka-based organization with a focus on Latinx topics across the Americas.

“I am very interested in the idea that a flag is something that can connect your private, or unique experience, and then be cast out into the world, therefore bringing visibility to certain issues,” Velasco said about the project. “I'm trying to reverse the hierarchy and empower individuals to bring to the table their own values, the things that we want to be inspired by when we look at a flag. I want to make visible certain histories and everybody's connection to it.”

For AAI Director and University Distinguished Professor Dr. Neal Kingston, the Arts & Humanities Grant is an opportunity to look at AAI’s work in education and the social sciences through arts and humanities lenses, to the benefit of the populations and goals the institute serves.

“The work that AAI and its individual centers do is very broad, encompassing healthy human development and education from early childhood through adulthood,” Kingston said. “The Arts & Humanities Grant is a natural extension of our efforts and a great opportunity to connect with creative KU faculty in other fields exploring some of the same areas we are.”