You are here: Home / About / Director's Letter

Director's Letter

2016-2017 Director’s Letter

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities was founded fifty years ago, in 1966. At the time, the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies, as it was called, didn’t award released time to faculty or graduate students. It also didn’t sponsor interdisciplinary work, largely because “interdisciplinary work” in the arts and humanities didn’t exist yet, and wouldn’t exist until the theoretical and pedagogical transformations of the 1980s and 1990s– when, not coincidentally, many institutes in the United States were founded. Rather, the IAHS was initially a means of rewarding distinguished faculty in the arts and humanities by giving them permanent status as IAHS Fellows, along with a modest salary stipend.

The IAH in its current form dates from 2001, when it began awarding residencies and running programs that conformed more closely to what interdisciplinary institutes nationwide had by then become– hosting conferences, lecture series, cross-disciplinary groups, performances, and cultural events.

We are now poised to take the next step in the evolution of the IAH, when I hand the keys over to my successor, who will become the fourth Director since 2001– following me, Marica Tacconi, and Laura Knoppers. But amid change, we will also have some long-desired continuity. I am very pleased to report that Associate Director Lauren Kooistra will stay on beyond this year, and that (relatedly) we have ended the practice of having the Director and Associate Director rotate out of office every three years. My successor will serve a five-year term, and he or she will have a seasoned and exceptionally capable Associate Director to work with.

We have also established some continuity in our postdoc/MFA program: Heather Davis, our postdoctoral scholar for 2014-15, remains here as part of our ambitious Mellon-funded project, “The Boundaries of the Human in the Age of the Life Sciences,” which winds up this year. Meanwhile Serap Erincin, the theorist/performer/writer/director who arrived in 2015, is in the middle of a two-year fellowship.

(For more about their exciting projects, click here; for more about “The Boundaries of the Human,” check out our Boundaries page or the Boundaries website, where you can view all the lectures and the blog responses.

Our “Cities” program for 2016-17 will be overseen by graduate assistant Mina Rahimian, and will feature a one-day symposium, “City, Energy, Information,” bringing together two very different schools of thought on the future of the world’s cities—one emphasizing energy technologies, the other emphasizing information technologies. And the presentations by our Resident Scholars and Artists and our Graduate Student Residents will be, as always, open and free to the public.

Our highly successful “Truth and Reconciliation” series, overseen by Associate Director Lauren Kooistra, will continue into 2016-17 as well. “Truth and Reconciliation” is our response to the recent racial tensions that have rocked the United States– and an examination of US history and culture with a focus on the African-American experience.

Our Fall Film Festival this year tackles “Climate Change and Climate Justice.” After all, climate change is not just a matter of CO2 in the atmosphere, of melting glaciers, flooded coastal plains, and rising global temperatures. It is all that, and much more– but it is also a matter of justice. There are people involved: how can we grapple with the fact that the people least responsible for carbon emissions are often the most vulnerable to their most catastrophic effects? There is an ecosphere at stake: how can we understand the obligations of humans to the planet and all its bioforms? Perhaps questions too difficult or elusive for public policy must be addressed instead by art. On September 24, at the State Theatre, we’ll try to do just that.

The IAH has come a long way in fifty years. Please join us for the Institute’s next phase!