This week, Central Floridians will be treated to UCF Celebrates the Arts, a free week-long festival by University of Central Florida artists. Now in its third year, the festival invites our community to enjoy the talents of our students and faculty members in downtown Orlando’s exquisite Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
The celebration will be filled with many wonderful events, including a multi-media “mini-festival” around John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath – in video game form, art exhibit, musical theatre and a book reading – made possible in part with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of the UCF Big Read.
The NEA and its counterpart, the National Endowment for the Humanities, enrich the lives of communities through access to the arts. Like UCF, these agencies are fostering creativity, inspiring future generations, and lifting lives and livelihoods throughout our community.
National programs like the NEA’s “Art Works: Creativity Connects” support partnerships between arts organizations and organizations from non-arts sectors to spark innovative and collaborative ideas. That’s precisely the type of partnerships that thrive at UCF, as demonstrated during last year’s Celebrates the Arts collaboration between musician Hans Zimmer, artist Paul Franklin, and physicist Kip Thorne.
The NEH and NEA aren’t large agencies, but they are influential. For UCF’s arts and humanities faculty and students, they can provide critical start-up grants needed by researchers to get access to larger sources of funding.
Some of the projects UCF students and faculty have been able to work on because of NEA and NEH funding include:
RICHES and the Central Florida Mosaic Interface
RICHES is an umbrella program housing interdisciplinary public history projects that bring together different departments at UCF with profit and non-profit sectors of the community. The Mosaic Interface is a free interactive digital collection of Florida’s history that offers a searchable database with access to images, documents, podcasts, oral histories, films, and visualizations. It combines time and geographical results with text analysis techniques to help community members and historians find hidden connections within the archive.
“ChinaVine: Engaging Audiences in China’s Traditional Culture”
ChinaVine is a self-guided, interactive educational folk art curriculum based on the idea that you learn about yourself as you learn about others. The cultural explorations and challenges presented ask participants to explore new ways of creating visual and text-based responses as it utilizes ChinaVine's open source materials. Users learn about China's cultural heritage as they learn about their own individual identity.
The Charles Brockden Brown Electronic Archive and Scholarly Edition
The Charles Brockden Brown Electronic Archive and Scholarly Edition aims to identify, transcribe, organize, and ultimately edit Brown's uncollected writings, making them searchable in an electronic environment. Access to these texts will cast new light on Brown as a novelist, editor, and historian, revise his stature among the intellectuals of the new republic, and enhance our understanding of authorship and the dynamics of print culture in his day.
The NEA Big Read at UCF
The Big Read is a national initiative designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. In celebration of the 115th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s birth, UCF and Seminole County Public Library are hosting a series of events around his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath. In 2015, UCF did the same with local author Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Black Film Studies: Integrating African-American Cinema into the Arts and Humanities Curriculum
This multi-year initiative examined the aesthetic and philosophical ideas that have shaped the theory and practice of black cinema, using an interdisciplinary humanities framework to promote a deeper understanding of the major ideas, films and filmmakers in African American Cinema.
Cinema History Project
This funding helped create the first multi-volume narrative history of American motion pictures. Each book covered a specific time period and considered stylistic, technological, and social/economic aspects of feature films, documentaries, and avant-garde films, as well as the film industries, individuals, and forces important to this history.
Support for a Cultural Heritage Center
Through documenting regional folk arts, networking with organizations, and staging several small events, the project laid the groundwork for a permanent folk life program in the form of a UCF Central Florida Heritage Center.
When the NEH and NEA empower state governments to fund the arts and humanities, it creates national impact. By sending less than $50 million to the 50 states in 2016, the NEA leveraged an estimated $368 million in funding from state governments. And since 1977, the NEH has awarded nearly $900 million in Challenge Grants.
If you have taken in an exhibit at a museum, viewed a performance at a theater, visited a historic neighborhood, or checked a book out at a library, you have most likely benefited from projects funded by the NEA and NEH.
At the UCF College of Arts & Humanities, we stand behind the important work these governmental agencies do for our community, our faculty, and our students. I hope you will join me in supporting the valuable services the NEA and NEH provide, and in celebrating the beauty, creativity, and cultural relevance of the arts next week at UCF Celebrates the Arts.
Jeff Moore, Dean, UCF College of Arts & Humanities