Public Impact Grants

The Willson Center Public Impact Grant supports faculty in the organization on campus of conferences, exhibitions, and performances that showcase humanities and arts research in a broad context. The Public Impact Grant is designed to offer interaction between national and international scholars and UGA faculty, students and the community.

2022 – 2023

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Faculty sponsor: Lisa Fusillo (Dance)

Founded nearly 30 years ago by two Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre alumni, Complexions Contemporary Ballet is a diverse and athletic company that has performed on five continents and in more than 20 countries.

Over the course of four performances at UGA’s Fine Arts Theatre on Sept. 29 and 30, audiences young and older were transfixed by the group’s explorations of music by Lenny Kravitz (“Love Rocks”) and J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach (“Hissy Fits”).

In addition to the performances for a general audience at 7:30 p.m. each night, area students attended Piedmont Athens Regional Performances for Young People at 10 a.m.

Complexions Ballet

The Genius of Phillis Wheatley Peters: A Poet and Her Legacies

Faculty sponsors: Barbara McCaskill and Susan Rosenbaum (English)

The Genius Of Phillis Wheatley Peters: A Poet and Her Legacies is a year-long partnership project by the University of Georgia and Texas Christian University on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the 1773 publication of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. It embodies both an honoring of the poet and her legacies, and an opportunity to spotlight the learning power and the significance of literature in our lives. Through the partnership of UGA and TCU, this project also celebrates the efficacy of collaborative learning informed by a participatory vision of the humanities and the arts. Its co-directors are Barbara McCaskill and Susan Rosenbaum of UGA, and Mona Narain and Sarah Ruffing Robbins of TCU.

The partnership program’s opening event on January 31, 2023 was a scholarly roundtable featuring speakers from TCU and UGA faculty in British studies, American studies, transatlantic studies, and related fields.

The panelists were, from TCU, Brandon Manning, who located Wheatley Peters’ place in African American literary history, and Linda K. Hughes, who reflected on Wheatley Peters’ crucial place in women’s transatlantic poetry. From UGA, David Diamond, English and African American Studies, considered Wheatley Peters’ original reception in and connections with Britain. Additionally, Zanice Bond from Tuskegee University’s English department addressed Wheatley Peters’ impact on and relevance to civil rights and social justice issues.

This event was conducted online as a free and public Zoom webinar.

Phillis Wheatley

2021 – 2022

Exhibition: Collective Impressions: Modern Native American Printmakers

Faculty sponsor: Jeffrey Richmond-Moll (Georgia Museum of Art)

This exhibition examines the individuals, communities and institutions central to elevating printmaking as a medium among Native American artists during the second half of the 20th century. As a nontraditional art form among Indigenous artists, printmaking has continually offered a dynamic means of modernist experimentation, communal engagement and social commentary. The exhibition provides an overview of this history, while also considering concepts like ritual, gender, humor, power, memory and dispossession and exile. Such themes are especially well suited to this paper-based medium. As Choctaw/Chickasaw art historian heather ahtone notes, Native printmakers took up paper — the material that Western legal culture used to dispossess tribes of rights, lands and languages — as a means of survivance, sustaining native stories and renouncing narratives of domination or tragedy.

“Collective Impressions” features an influential group of Indigenous artists, from some of the earliest to engage with the medium, like Awa Tsireh and Gerald Nailor, to a group of more humorous and satirical artists, like Fritz Scholder, T.C. Cannon and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. The exhibition also highlights a large number of Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Yuchi artists, including Bobby C. Martin, America Meredith, Kay WalkingStick and Richard Ray Whitman, whose works address history, memory and belonging. These are crucial questions for the Georgia Museum of Art, given that our university and museum stand on the ancestral homelands of these tribes.

Collective Impressions

2020 – 2021

Exhibition: Emma Amos: Color Odyssey

Faculty sponsor: Shawnya Harris (Georgia Museum of Art)

This survey exhibition included approximately 60 works produced by artist Emma Amos over the last 60 years. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Emma Amos (March 16, 1937 – May 20, 2020) was a distinguished painter and printmaker. She is best known for her bold and colorful mixed-media paintings that create visual tapestries in which she examines the intersection of race, class, gender and privilege in both the art world and society at large. Amos, like many Black and woman artists had been given scant attention in the art world until recent years before her death in 2020 and this monographic exhibition was the most comprehensive exhibition of her over six- decade career. In addition, the exhibition also complemented research in UGA’s art history program at the Lamar Dodd School of Art as well as the departments of Women’s Studies and African American Studies. The UGA’s Association of Graduate Art Students (AGAS) presented their 2021 Emerging Scholars Symposium, which included research by current graduate students and other emerging scholars related to themes of art and identity throughout the history of visual and material culture. The symposium was presented in conjunction with the exhibition and included a keynote by art historian, Dr. Adrienne Childs.

Emma Amos- Color Odyssey

SPLICE Festival IV

Faculty sponsors: Emily Koh and Peter Van Zandt Lane (Hugh Hodgson School of Music)

The SPLICE Festival IV was hosted virtually due to the pandemic at the Dancz Center for New Music at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. The SPLICE ensemble, a group of world-class performers who specialize in performing music that fully integrates with interactive electronics, was co-hosted by Emily Koh and Peter Van Zandt Lane in the Hugh Hodson School of Music. The festival featured a keynote speech, two workshops, six presentations (2 sessions of talks), five concerts (33 composers represented), and three evenings of virtual social gatherings. The festival brought together more than one hundred composers and performers, including five UGA students/alumni and two faculty ensembles—Subaerial Collective and Modular Ensemble. The festival was also supported by the Office of the Provost through a State-of-the-Art Conference Grants.

SPLICE Ensemble

2019 – 2020


Faculty sponsor: Lisa Fusillo (Dance)

AILEY II dance company, which embodies 21st century dance in its blending of dance forms and cultures in addition to the choreographic legacies representing exceptional innovation and artistic excellence, presented a series of master classes, guest lectures, and a public performance on campus. The UGA and Athens communities experienced one of the most iconic and diverse American dance companies in the world through the legacy of Alvin Ailey’s work and through radical new contemporary choreographers.

Programs events involved the Department of Dance, the Performing Arts Center, the Institute for African American Studies, and the Department of Theatre and Film Studies. Outreach activities allowed participants of all ages to interact with these exceptional artists through community master classes at the East Athens Educational Dance Center and Dance FX.  The project had a direct impact on student life at UGA as students engaged in workshops, master classes, and conversations with artistic director, Troy Powell and artists from the AILEY II company. The Public Impact Grant also assisted in funding a free matinee performance at the Fine Arts Theatre open to all local public schools.

Ailey II

Indigenous Languages of South America Film Series

Faculty sponsor: Tim Gupton (Romance Languages)

The Indigenous Languages of South America Film Series celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages with two Latin American films on indigenous languages and cultures with special introductory comments and post-screening Q & A with the films’ directors. Film screenings included Los Ojos del Camino with director Rodrigo Otero Heraud and Lantéc Chaná with director Marina Zeising.

The program was supported by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI), the Departments of Linguistics, English, Romance Languages, Theatre and Film Studies, History, and Sociology, the Institute of Native American Studies, and the Willson Cetner.

Los Ojos del Camino

2018 – 2019

Staged Reading, Book Discussion and Writing Response – “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine

Faculty sponsor: Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (College of Education)

A free, two-night, staged reading of Claudia Rankine’s award-winning, multi-genre book Citizen performed by students, faculty, and community actors under the direction of Freda Scott Giles, faculty emerita of theatre and film studies and African-American studies. The staged performance of this book lays bare moments of racism that often surface in everyday encounters. It combines poetry with commentary, visual art, quotations from artists and critics, slogans, and scripts for films. It’s “an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium” (Bookforum).

A discussion co-hosted by the College of Education’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine lays bare moments of racism that often surface in everyday encounters. It combines poetry with commentary, visual art, quotations from artists and critics, slogans, and scripts for films. It’s “an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium” (Bookforum).

Participants will be invited to write their own reflections on past experiences with microaggression and/or micro-validation. We imagine our individual and collective goals for future advocacy and care in our “diverse-city” of Athens, Georgia.

Copies of Citizen will be given out (one per household) to event attendees while supplies last.

This event is part of This is (Not) What I Expected: Difference and Dignity Through Literature and the Arts, a series of events centered around and inspired by Citizen by Claudia Rankine.

Events in the series have been supported by funds from the Willson Center, the Leighton M. Ballew Lecture Series in English, Verse magazine, and Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.


M. NourbeSe Philip – “Zong! – Talking Code, Stalking Silence”

Faculty sponsor: Christine Lasek-White (Creative Writing)

M. NourbeSe Philip is an unembedded poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright who lives in Toronto. She practiced law in Toronto for seven years before becoming a poet and writer. She has published four books of poetry including the seminal She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks, one novel, and four collections of essays. Her book-length poem, Zong!, is a conceptually innovative, genre-breaking epic, which explodes the legal archive as it relates to slavery. Her most recent work is BlanK, a collection of essays on racism and culture.

Among Philip’s awards are numerous Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council grants, including the Chalmers Award, as well as the Pushcart Prize (USA, 1981), the Casa de las Americas Prize (Cuba, 1988), the Lawrence Foundation Prize (USA, 1994), the Arts Foundation of Toronto Writing and Publishing Award (Toronto, 1995), the Dora Award (finalist, drama, 1999), and the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award (Outstanding mid-career artist. 2015). Her fellowships include Guggenheim (1990), McDowell (1991), and Rockefeller (Bellagio) (2005). She is an awardee of both the YWCA Woman of Distinction (Arts) and the Elizabeth Fry Rebels for a Cause awards. She has been writer-in-residence at several universities and a guest at writers’ retreats.

This event is sponsored by Verse magazine – the final public event in Verse‘s 22-year history of publication – and the Creative Writing Program.

It is also part of This is (Not) What I Expected: Difference and Dignity Through Literature and the Arts, a series of events centered around and inspired by Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Other events in the series have been supported by funds from the Willson Center, the Leighton M. Ballew Lecture Series in English, and Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.

M. Nourbese Philip

Heid E. Erdrich – “Poetry, Performance, and Indigenous Citizenship”

Faculty sponsor: Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (College of Education)

This event explores the connections between African-American citizenship, Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric, and the indigenous poet’s experiences and reflections. It is presented by Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature LeAnne Howe.

Featured speaker Heid E. Erdrich is the author of five collections of poetry including Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media (2017). Erdich’s nonfiction work, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, earned a City Pages Best Food Book of 2014 designation. Her writing has won awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, The Loft Literary Center, and First People’s Fund. Her book National Monuments won the 2009 Minnesota Book Award. In 2013 she was named a City PagesArtists of the Year. Erdich’s poem films have been screened at festivals and have won Best of Fest and a Best Experimental Short awards. She is an independent scholar and curator, a playwright, and founding publisher of Wiigwaas Press, an Ojibwe-language publisher. She teaches in the MFA in creative writing program of Augsburg College. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain.

The event will open with a reading by Josina Guess, who writes poetry, essays and reviews that explore intersections of faith, race, family and home rooted in the rural and urban landscapes of her life and memory. Her recent work as appeared in The Christian Century, Crop Stories, Communities, Sojourners, and Geez Magazine. She has two poems in the Anthology Fight Evil with Poetry Volume 1 edited by Micah Bournes and Chris Cambell. Her essay “Putting Our Lives on the Line” is in The Wisdom of Communities Volume 4: Sustainability in Community. She is also a contributor to the forthcoming Rally: Litanies for the Lovers of God and Neighbor (Upper Room Press 2019). She lives in an old farmhouse on four acres in Comer, Georgia, with her husband Michael, and their four children. They lived for six and a half years at Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian community that works with refugees.

This event is part of This is (Not) What I Expected: Difference and Dignity Through Literature and the Arts, a series of events centered around and inspired by Citizen by Claudia Rankine.

Events in the series have been supported by funds from the Willson Center, the Leighton M. Ballew Lecture Series in English, Verse magazine, and Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.

Heid Erdrich

Regina E. Mason – “Gina’s Story: The Life of William Grimes as Art and Testimony”

Faculty sponsor: Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (College of Education)

Author, speaker, and storyteller Regina E. Mason is the great-great-great granddaughter of William Grimes, the author of the first published U.S. American slave narrative. Grimes was held in bondage in many states, including Georgia.

Mason will discuss her journey as a researcher to recover the story of her ancestor in relation to themes of belonging and citizenship. After an introductory discussion, she will screen her 80-minute documentary, Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes (2016), which tells both Grimes’ story and the 15-year process she spent to authenticate his extraordinary narrative of flight from bondage to liberty. With the literary critic and expert William L. Andrews, Mason also co-edited the authoritative 2008 Oxford University Press edition of The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. She has shared her work with national and international campus and university communities, including Mansfield College of Oxford, England. SUNY-Buffalo, Yale University, and the University of California-Berkeley.

This event is part of This is (Not) What I Expected: Difference and Dignity Through Literature and the Arts, a series of events centered around and inspired by Citizen by Claudia Rankine.

Events in the series have been supported by funds from the Willson Center, the Leighton M. Ballew Lecture Series in English, Verse magazine, and Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.

St. EOM of Pasaquan Exhibit – Panel Presentation, Discussion and Reception

Faculty sponsor: Lyndon House Arts Center

The Lyndon House hosts an exhibit featuring artifacts, paintings, sculpture, wearable costumes and garments all created by Eddie Owens Martin (aka St. EOM) of Pasaquan. Pasaquan is Martin’s visionary artist environment recently restored by the Kohler Foundation. Pasaquan is located in Buena Vista, Georgia and is overseen by Michael McFalls, professor of art at Columbus State University. This exhibit and associated events are made possibly through a Public Impact Grant from the Willson Center and are a partnership with the University of Georgia Press, which is launching the reprint of Tom Patterson’s St. Eom in the Land of Pasaquan.

The Pasaquan panel discussion welcomes Professor Michael McFalls, Columbus State University and Director of Pasaquan, historian Fred Fussell, the Pasaquan Preservation Societypresident, Annie Moye, Author Tom Patterson and others. This panel will include the story of Pasaquan, the importance of preserving visionary art and its legacy as well as tales of the extraordinary St. EOM from those who knew him well.

Conference – “Scenes in the Other’s Language”

Faculty sponsor: Sujata Iyengar (English)

“Scenes in the Other’s Language” is sponsored by Georgia Humanities, the Partner University Fund of the FACE Foundation, the University of Georgia, CNRS, IRCL, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, the University of Georgia Libraries, the Athens-Clarke County Library, the departments of English, Theatre and Film Studies, and Romance Languages, the UGA Graduate School, and the UGA Office of Institutional Diversity.

Symposium – “’One Heart, One Way’: The Journey of a Princely Art Collection”

Faculty sponsor: Asen Kirin (Lamar Dodd School of Art)

The international symposium will accompany the exhibition of the same name at the Georgia Museum of Art. The works included in this show date from 1660 to 1917 and were passed from one generation to the next in the same Russian aristocratic family the Princes Belosselsky-Belozersky who trace their origins to the legendary founder of the medieval state of Kievan Rus’ the Viking Prince Riurik of Jutland (reign 862-879). In 862 Riurik bestowed on one of his two brothers the vast Belozersky (“White Lake”) domain in Northeastern Europe, hence the dynastic name. For centuries the family crest has included a motto referring to an honorable singleness of mind and action, a quote from the Book of Prophet Jeremiah 32:39—“One heart, one way.”

2017 – 2018

A Night at the Morton: Soul Celebration

Faculty sponsor: Susan Thomas and Jean Kidula (Hugh Hodgson School of Music)

The Athens Music Project, an interdisciplinary research initiative of the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music, presented an interactive performance event, supported by a Public Impact Grant from the Willson Center. It was the third installment of the biannual program organized and directed by UGA music professors Jean Ngoya Kidula and Susan Thomas. Sponsors included the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, the Institute for African American Studies, and the Morton Theatre.

Soul – embraced as a lifestyle, passion, musical genre and label – was explored through interviews, performances and audience interaction. The headliner for the event was rhythm and blues legend Theodis Ealey with an opening by jazz guitarist Victor Hodge. Other artists included soul-pop singer Ansley Stewart, an Athens native now living in Atlanta; Athens community group The Notes; and UGA Kalakaar, an a cappella student group.

Jacqueline DjeDje, emeritus professor and chair of ethnomusicology at UCLA, interviewed renowned gospel singer Sylvanus “Zeke” Turner, a native of Athens. Turner’s subsequent performance and that of the Hull Family Singers of Hill Chapel Baptist Church demonstrated the prominent role and ethos emanating from gospel music in the foundation, structure, practice and message of Soul.

Robert Spano – “Conversation with Student Composers: Experimentation, Preparation, and Performance” Followed by the UGA-Atlanta Symphony Composers Workshop

Faculty sponsor: Peter Lane (Hugh Hodgson School of Music)

Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, visited UGA for a day of events supported by the President’s Venture Fund, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and the Willson Center. Spano and the ASO took part in the UGA-Atlanta Symphony Composers Workshop in Hodgson Hall. Spano conducted and rehearsed orchestral compositions by UGA student composers. Works were selected through a call-for-scores competition among UGA students.

The reading session was preceded by a panel discussion in Edge Hall with Spano and the selected composers, moderated by Peter Van Zandt Lane, assistant professor of composition in the Hodgson School and director of the Roger and Phylis Dancz Center for New Music.

Spano, a conductor, pianist, composer, and teacher, has won six Grammy Awards with the Atlanta Symphony during his 17 years as music director. The ASO established the Atlanta School of Composers under Spano’s leadership, a reflection of his commitment to American contemporary music. He serves on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and is music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Spano is one of two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Robert Spano

Exhibition – “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête”

Faculty sponsor: Shawnya Harris (Georgia Museum of Art)

The exhibition, which included more than 40 works by the acclaimed African American artist Mickalene Thomas, also included a selection of works by artists who inspired her: Derrick Adams, Renée Cox, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems. Thomas is well known for her paintings encrusted with rhinestones, but she has worked in photography since she was a graduate student at Yale more than two decades ago. Her photographs draw on a wide range of influences — from art history to popular culture, from Henri Matisse’s odalisques to images of 1970s supermodel Beverly Johnson — but they all focus on beauty and what it means to be a woman. The exhibition was organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, and curated by Shawnya Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art. It was sponsored by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc., the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation, the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, and the Willson Center.

Mickalene Thomas

The Buddha Image in South Asia: Trans-Regional Diversity, Iconographic Innovation and Localized Idioms 

Faculty sponsor: Nicolas Morrissey (Lamar Dodd School of Art)

Speakers from Europe and across the United States presented a series of lectures engaging the early history and development of the Buddha image in South Asia in the symposium “The Buddha Image in South Asia: Trans-Regional Diversity, Iconographic Innovation and Localized Idioms.” These lectures were accompanied and oriented toward contextualizing the exhibition “Images of Awakening: The Buddhist Sculptural Heritage of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Lectures included presentations by some of the foremost historians in the field of South Asian art on topics such as: Hellenistic influences in Gandharan Buddhist art, Buddhist sculptural traditions of the Himalayas, the evolution of the Buddha image in the Gangetic Plain, the heartland of Buddhism and early regional styles of Buddha images in the southeast of the Indian subcontinent. A lecture on “Refined, Prosaic, and Spurious: The Many Faces of the Buddha in the Art of Gandhara” by Ju-hyung Rhi, professor of art history and archaeology at Seoul National University, at the Georgia Museum of Art served as the symposium’s keynote and the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s annual Shouky Shaheen Lecture.

2016 – 2017

International Symposium – Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects

Faculty sponsor: Asen Kirin (Lamar Dodd School of Art)

Speakers from Europe and the United States discussed the history of collecting Russian art in America. In addition, papers devoted to individual works of art were featured in the exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art. Presentations included reports on the conservation and restoration of the objects of art as well as detailed findings of a scientific multispectral imaging of a hitherto unknown painting by Aleksei G. Venetsianov (1780–1847), one of Russia’s most significant 19th-century artists. The symposium was sponsored by the Willson Center and C.V. Nalley III.

Russian Art Symposium

The Innocents Project

Faculty sponsor: Connie Frigo (Hugh Hodgson School of Music)

The Innocents Project residency examined the issue of wrongful conviction in the American penal system through live musical performance and theatre inspired by the work of photographer Taryn Simon.  The individuals photographed by Simon were exonerated through DNA evidence, often after serving decades in prison. 

The residency featured a roundtable discussion at the Law School, a presentation on how to fuse contemporary music/theatre with a social justice cause, masterclasses at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, all culminating in a final musical performance in the Atrium of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. Atlanta-based contemporary music ensemble Bent Frequency members Drs. Jan Baker and Stuart Gerber (Georgia State U.), along with Dr. John Lane (Sam Houston State U.) and Prof. Allen Otte (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) led the residency work, with participation by the director of The Georgia Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Innocents Project

Symposium – Television History, the Peabody Archives, and Cultural Memory

Faculty sponsorJeffrey Jones (Peabody Awards)

The Peabody Archives is a unique collection of media history, housing over 90,000 programs submitted to the Peabody Awards since its inception in 1941. The Archives is a distinctive repository of cultural memory that challenges our understanding of who and what we are as a nation and what we think we know about television and its role in recent American history.

The Symposium was the second of a two-part conference, and the culmination of a collaborative research initiative based on the Archives and its holdings. Distinguished television studies scholars from across the country presented new research to expand current understandings of American cultural history as seen on TV, and offer a wide range of critical perspectives on what Peabody Awards submissions have to teach us. Topics included: what makes “quality television”; the celebration of our nation’s bicentennial; representations of homosexuality; early medical television journalism; conceptions of blackness; fake news; and the War on Drugs. The scholars’ findings serve as the start of a new series on Television History produced by the University of Georgia Press.

The event was supported by the UGA Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Georgia Libraries, Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, and University of Georgia Press.

Peabody logo

2015 – 2016

Slingshot Festival

Faculty sponsor: Daniel Gellar (College of Engineering); Co–Sponsor: Eric Marty (School of Marine Programs)

Slingshot is a next generation festival creating a continuum across forward-thinking popular and experimental forms of expression, and bringing cutting edge technology and research to a wide public. Slingshot’s mission is to help rebrand UGA and Athens as an international intersection of forward-thinking music, art and technology, and to attract students, faculty, research, investment, and tourism to UGA and the area.

In 2014, Slingshot featured 60+ musical acts, and 40+ internationally recognized, established and emerging artists, and talks by leading innovators in technology. Scholars from UGA and universities around the U.S. presented on a range of topics at the intersection of humanities, art and technology. Slingshot 2015 featured a high profile tech conference, an increased art presence and larger music acts.

The 2016 festival will highlight the research, technologies, design and criticism underpinning next generation modes of artistic expression through conference talks, demonstrations, workshops, discussions, performances and installations.


Displaying Art in the Twentieth-Century American House Museum

Faculty sponsor: Asen Kirin (Lamar Dodd School of Art)
Dates: April 8-9, 2016

Organized jointly by the Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA Semester in Washington, and Harvard University, this symposium will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary from the foundation of Dumbarton Oaks. The opening ceremony of Dumbarton Oaks took place on November 2, 1940; the same winter season in Washington saw yet another conspicuous art museum event—the National Gallery of Art’s inauguration on March 17, 1941.

These two events took place during the grimmest early period of World War II and made explicit a constant theme pertinent to a significant part of art collecting in America. This was the desire to save, preserve, and elucidate the best of the Western cultural tradition in the New World. The pursuits of many thoughtful American collectors contributed to inventing and affirming a complex and sophisticated sense of cultural identity, which remains as a part of the current intellectual discourse.

The symposium will focus on the art displays in house museums in America while also considering certain relevant European antecedents and parallels, among them the Wallace Collection (1897) in London and Musée Nissim de Camondo (1936) in Paris.

Appropriation in an Age of Global Shakespeare

Faculty sponsor: Christy Desmet (English); Faculty Co-Sponsor: Sujata Iyengar (English)
Dates: November 12-14, 2015

2015 marks the tenth anniversary of Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. The journal, founded and co-edited by Christy Desmet and Sujata Iyengar, is internationally recognized as the leading venue for publications on the topic of Shakespearean Appropriation: prequels, sequels, recyclings, and rewritings of all kinds from across the globe. The journal, which won the Best New Journal Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals in 2007, publishes original criticism from leading scholars around the world and from emerging scholars in this always-changing field.

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The anniversary will feature a two-day intensive conference on the topic of Appropriation in the Age of Global Shakespeare. As the world gathered in London for the 2012 Olympics, viewers and participants also experienced Shakespeare productions in dozens of world languages from every continent except Antarctica. The Cultural Olympiad, which ran the entire year, showcased Shakespeare through the Globe to Globe Festival, which brought theatrical companies from all over the world to perform Shakespeare in London. Currently, a small traveling company from Shakespeare’s Globe in London has embarked on a two-year odyssey, with the intent of performing Hamlet in every nation in the world. Closer to home, Emory University’s World Shakespeare Project connects U.S. university students with the counterparts in U.S. tribal colleges and other nations ranging from India to Morocco. The intercultural conversations produced from these and similar enterprises create a new Shakespeare, one for our global digital age that necessarily incorporates many forms of appropriation.

2014 – 2015

Symposium – “Rethinking the Parthenon: Color, Materiality and Aesthetics”

Faculty sponsor: Mark Abbe (Lamar Dodd School of Art)
Dates: October 17-18

This international symposium will bring eminent scholars to the University of Georgia to present and discuss critical new research on the Parthenon. Built for the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens between 447-432 B.C.E., the Parthenon was the most sumptuously adorned temple in the Greek world. Today its marble shell is the most iconic remnant of classical Greek civilization, a veritable shorthand for classicism and Western civilization itself.

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This symposium will focus on three interrelated but often-overlooked aspects of the Parthenon: its color, its materiality and its aesthetics. Interdisciplinary research in London and Athens has uncovered extensive vestiges of ancient painting on the sculptures and architecture of the Parthenon. These exciting discoveries add new insights to old discussions of the building’s decoration, in particular about the temple’s original polychrome appearance. Of critical importance is consideration of the diversity of the Parthenon’s construction materials, including white marble, bronze, ivory, gold, and pigments, and the complex symbolism and material aesthetics of their religious use.

Although scholars often frame Greek aesthetics within the more familiar patterns of abstract formalism (i.e., Plato and Aristotle), recent research has demonstrated how ancient aesthetic ideas often were more fundamentally anchored in direct sensual experience. An increasingly synoptic and flexible picture of the Parthenon is emerging of this exceptional temple as the most visually prominent public artwork of a distinct culture with a distinct aesthetic perspective, which in turn has generated important legacies in the development of western aesthetics.

Rethinking the Parthenon

Annual International Conference on Africa and Its Diaspora (AICAID)

Faculty sponsor: Akinloye Ojo (African Studies Institute)

The African Studies Institute at the University of Georgia welcomes all local, national and international scholars to the Third Annual International Conference on Africa and Its Diaspora (AICAID). At this conference, the African Studies Institute aims to stimulate and document scholarly discussion on the complex issue of gender and development in Africa and Its Diaspora. The conference will offer a forum for intensive exchanges among participants from Africa, the United States, and elsewhere, to highlight both the gains and challenges of the extensive inquiries on gender and its impact on development within Africa and the African Diaspora.

Slingshot 2015 – Festival of music, art, and technology

Faculty sponsor: Chris Eaket (Department of Theatre and Film Studies, Department of English)

The Slingshot Festival takes over downtown Athens, Georgia March 26-28, 2015. Spread over 5 city blocks and dozens of venues, Slingshot spotlights international, national, and local acts on stage, boundary pushing artworks throughout the urban environment, and tech talks with leading innovators. Slingshot also hosts a dedicated comedy night and film screenings.

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Slingshot is a hybrid event that draws a diverse audience to engage with music, art, and technology. The 2014 Slingshot festival highlighted over 80 musical acts over three days in independent pop, electronic, rock, and experimental music from around the world. Over 45 artists from 20 countries were featured in varied electronic arts presentations, including interactive installations, performances, sound, and video. The technology portion of the festival included demonstrations, showcases, installations, competitions, and performances.

Slingshot began as a one-day event in 2013 with attendance of around 500 people. The 2015 festival will mark Slingshot’s third year, with expected attendance in the thousands. This event is sponsored by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, MailChimp, Urban Outfitters, and More information is available through Slingshot’s website.


2013 – 2014

Classical Color: Ancient Polychromy Research

Faculty sponsor: Mark Abbe (Lamar Dodd School of Art)

Interdisciplinary research on the coloration of Greek and Roman marble sculpture finally has begun to restore color to the domain of Classical art, popularly perceived as perfectly white. The art research program of Mark Abbe, Tina Salguero, and Jeff Speakman promotes awareness of the original aesthetics of Classical art by combining art historical and scientific study of the vestiges of color that survive, often at the brink of invisibility, on the surfaces of ancient marble statuary. This grant supports the public dissemination of their work through the creation of a webpage for local, national, and international audiences.

Classical Color

Pilobolus Dance Theatre

Host: Lisa Fusillo (Dance)
Dates: January 23 – 24, 8 pm

Pilobolus Dance Theatre is an internationally renowned and award-winning company that has continued to extend, expand and further develop its innovative dance/movement concepts into extraordinary performances into the 21st century. The company maintains its founding collaborative philosophy of making art “to build community.” The company “teaches its group-based creative process to performers and non-dancers alike through popular, unique educational projects and programs.”

The Willson Center Public Impact Grant will bring this exceptional dance theatre company to the UGA campus to present public performances and master classes. Dates and further details will be announced soon.

Pilobolus Dance Company

Portuguese Linguistics in the United States

Host: Timothy Gupton (Romance Languages)
Dates: November 14 – 16, 2013

The inaugural Portuguese Linguistics in the United States (PLUS) conference takes place at the Georgia Hotel and Conference Center November 14-16, 2013. This three-day international academic conference, hosted by the UGA Department of Romance Languages, is the first of its kind in North America and will feature over 40 presentations by leading researchers of Portuguese and Portuguese-based creoles from across the country and around the world. Invited plenary speakers include Dr. Ana Maria Carvalho (University of Arizona), Dr. João Costa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Dr. Charlotte Galves (UNICAMP), Dr. Scott Schwenter (The Ohio State University), and Antônio Carlos de Morães Sartini, curator of the Museum of the Portuguese Language (Museu da Língua Portuguesa) in São Paulo, Brazil. For more information, including registration and presentation scheduling details, please visit our conference website.


Whatever It Takes

Faculty sponsor: Janna Dresden (College of Education)

Whatever It Takes is an initiative of Family Connection-Communities In Schools of Athens, an education-based nonprofit organization that works directly with children and youth to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. The Willson Center Public Impact Grant will support partnerships between Whatever It Takes and the College of Education, as well as other areas of the university.

Whatever It Takes

JoLLE 2014 Conference

Faculty sponsor: Peter Smagorinsky (College of Education)
Dates: February 14-15, 2014

The JoLLE conference is an annual conference attached to the Journal of Language and Literacy Education housed in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. The Journal of Language and Literacy Education (ISSN #1559-9035) is a peer-reviewed, open access journal housed in the Department of Language & Literacy Education in the College of Education at the University of Georgia. Since its inception in 2004, JoLLE has provided a space for scholars to engage readers in a broad spectrum of issues related to the field. As an online journal, we encourage submissions that incorporate multiple modes (e.g., photographs, artwork, video, and graphics).

EcoFocus Film Festival

Host: Sara Beresford (Odum School of Ecology)
Dates: March 20 – 29, 2014

EcoFocus Film Festival was initiated in 2007 by UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. The mission of the festival is to present high-quality films on environmental subjects to inform and inspire audience members. EcoFocus will bring the best environmental films of the year to Athens along with filmmakers, speakers and special events. More information about EcoFocus Film Festival can be found at

EcoFocus logo

2012 – 2013

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company Performance and Residency

Host: Bala Sarasvati (Department of Dance)
Dates of Residency:  October 15 – 17, 2012, UGA Department of Dance

The Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, led by founders Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury, will provide a three-day residence in the UGA Department of Dance October 15 – 17, 2012.  The RWDC, one of the leading companies in dance education, was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and this funding also will apply to the residency at UGA.

The company has performed throughout the U.S., British Isles, Canada, China, Europe, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa and the Virgin Islands. RWDC will teach master classes in the Department of Dance, provide a lecture demonstration/performance and stage a work for UGA dance students. The performance, open to the UGA population and the general public, will include choreography selected from 2012-13 RWDC dance repertory including original choreography by Charlotte Boye-Christensen (Artistic Director), along with a showcase of new and recreated works choreographed by other distinguished contemporary choreographers.


EcoFocus Film Festival

Host: Sara Beresford (Odum School of Ecology)
Dates: March 22 – 30, 2013

EcoFocus Film Festival was initiated in 2007 by UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. The mission of the festival is to present high-quality films on environmental subjects to inform and inspire audience members. The 2012-2013 EcoFocus activities include two screening events on the UGA campus in Fall 2012 and the main film festival, which is slated for March 21 – 24, 2013. EcoFocus will bring the best environmental films of the year to Athens along with filmmakers, speakers and special events. More information about EcoFocus Film Festival can be found at

EcoFocus logo

The Aspen String Trio Residency

Hosts: Maggie Snyder and Michael Heald (Hugh Hodgson School of Music)
Dates of Residency: March 24 – 28, 2013

On March 24-26 this internationally acclaimed chamber ensemble will be in residence at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and on March 27 will perform their own recital in Ramsey Hall at the Performing Arts Center. The next evening they will be joined by members of the UGA string faculty for a further concert of chamber music. Their visit is supported by a grant from the Willson Center, as well as by the Performing Arts Center.

Aspen String Trio