UGA launches Arts Lab Cluster to elevate arts research, practice and community engagement

Includes Athens Hip Hop Harmonic collaboration with local artists

The University of Georgia Arts Council is spearheading a new, multi-year initiative to enhance research, practice and community engagement in the arts.

The Arts Lab Cluster will include course development fellowships for faculty, micro-fellowships that will facilitate faculty research projects and new fellowships for graduate students.

The Arts Lab Cluster also will house a community-engaged music project known as the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic that will bring UGA faculty, students and local Hip Hop artists together to collaborate in a series of community performances.

“Promoting excellence in teaching and learning, growing research and strengthening partnerships with communities are the three key priorities of the university’s 2025 Strategic Plan, and the arts play important roles in each of these areas,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In addition to the Office of the Provost, the Office of Research, Graduate School, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts are providing funding for the initiative.

Faculty and Graduate Fellowships

The Arts Lab Cluster grew out of the work of the 13-member Task Force on Arts Research and Practice that was convened last year by the Arts Council and explored a range of issues with an eye toward increasing the university’s national and international reputation as a premiere institution for the creative disciplines. The task force report noted that success in research and artistic practice undergird all other aspects of program development, including recruitment, teaching and alumni engagement.

The Arts Lab initiative includes a total of six faculty course development fellowships-two per year for three years-for faculty members who are interested in developing curriculum in the arts that has the potential to spur interest in arts-based research and practice.

In addition, two Willson Center micro-fellowships will be offered in fall 2021 to allow teaching and performance intensive arts faculty to take research leave of up to one month in parallel with Willson Center Research Fellowships, which provide course releases to support humanities and arts scholars or practitioners.

To recognize graduate students in the arts who exhibit extraordinary potential, five graduate fellowships will be awarded to existing or incoming students in units represented on the Arts Council.

Community Engagement

In coordination with the Willson CenterConnie Frigo and Ideas for Creative Exploration, the Arts Lab Cluster will house the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic. The community engagement project will be led by Connie Frigo, an associate professor of saxophone in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, who developed it in collaboration with Athens Hip Hop artist Mariah Parker and promoter Montu Miller, and Cynthia Johnston-Turner, professor and director of bands in the Hodgson School.

The  Athens Hip Hop Harmonic will explore issues and experiences of racism, inclusion, equity and social justice through music. A series of performances in community venues such as public parks, schools, the East Athens Community Center, the 40 Watt Club and local churches are being planned.

[Right] Connie Frigo, associate professor of saxophone in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. [Below] Sitting, L-R: Emily Koh, Montu Miller, Mariah Parker, Kxng Blanco, Squalle; Standing, L-R: Peter Lane, Ishues, Caulfield, Cindi Johnston-Turner, Adrian Childs, Motorhead2x.


Hip Hop Project


The project will advance what the National Endowment for the Arts refers to as “creative placemaking,” the deliberate integration of arts and culture to support local efforts to enhance quality of life, increase creative activity and foster a distinct sense of place. UGA has launched several such projects in recent years, including a Mellon Foundation funded collaboration with the Penn Center, following the institution’s hosting in 2018 of the national conference of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, which focused on the relationship between creativity and diverse cultural locations.

The Athens Hip Hop Harmonic will be supported by a three-year, limited-term lectureship that will be housed in the Hodgson School.

“Excellence within disciplines combined with a broad-based commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration define the arts at the University of Georgia,”said Marisa Pagnattaro, vice provost for academic affairs and chair of the Arts Council. “I am extremely grateful to the members of the Arts Council, as well as to all of the faculty who served on the Task Force on Arts Research and Practice, for their dedication to advancing the arts on campus and beyond.”