From a multi-suite musical work based on the historical events of 2020 and an exhibition on the bolo tie to a project documenting the story of Denton through a community-designed performance, three University of North Texas professors will be pursuing creative research projects in the next year as the 2023-24 Institute for the Advancement of the Arts Faculty Fellows.
UNT is committed to fostering creativity and launched the IAA in 2009 to support and advance excellence in the visual, performing, creative and literary arts. Each year, the university selects professors to be part of the Faculty Fellows program, which enables UNT faculty to focus on creative endeavors for a semester and then bring their enhanced perspectives to teaching.
The 2023-24 IAA Faculty Fellows are:
Davis, an associate professor of percussion in the College of Music Division of Jazz Studies, will create a new musical composition for a large ensemble called Empathy Suite, which is influenced by the confluence of two world events in 2020 that have affected everyone in some way – the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd. Once complete, the multi-suite work will be performed by students and faculty musicians on the UNT campus and potentially at other venues.
"The ideas, melodies, grooves and sounds of Empathy Suite were born directly from the realization that often music is a healer. It can help people come together and truly see one another in a more compassionate and empathetic way," Davis said.
Davis is a jazz drummer, composer and educator who has extensive experience writing for large ensembles, including two original arrangements performed by UNT's own One O'Clock Lab Band. Over the years, he has toured and played on numerous albums from the jazz industry's top musicians. In addition to his work as an educator, Davis continues to perform both locally and internationally.
Lopez, an associate professor in the College of Visual Arts and Design Department of Studio Art, will explore the expressive potential of the bolo tie, its history in relation to marginalized communities and current relevance as a gender-neutral form of adornment. Background research will be conducted in Phoenix, Arizona, in the Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives at the Heard Museum, which houses a collection of bolo ties and extensive records relating to their makers. This research will bring about a new art piece as well as be the basis for Everybody's Bolos, a traveling exhibition of contemporary interpretations of the bolo tie along with an accompanying catalog essay.
"On a deeper level this exhibition is about recognizing stereotypes, exploring them and expanding beyond their limitations through the agency and inclusivity of craft," Lopez said.
Lopez is a metalsmith, educator and decorative arts scholar. Her creative work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa, Arizona and the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the author of the reference book Metalworking Through History: An Encyclopedia as well as numerous other scholarly articles. Previously, she served as a member of the Fulbright Specialist Roster and was selected for a 2019 Maker-Creator Fellowship at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.
Ybarra, an associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Department of English, will design a public humanities project integrating the local community around UNT to tell the story of the city and of the place. This includes documenting histories of beauty — the rivers and creeks that feed the soil, the variety of birds who migrate through the skies and the people who create networks of care and communion. The work also will reckon with histories of violence that shape the place and tell the stories of the many peoples who have inhabited the Denton area, including documenting the little-known histories of the Black, Indigenous and Latinx populations. Oral histories, collaborations with community groups and community meetings will help determine the narratives that will be emphasized in a community-designed performance envisioned for Spring 2024.
"We have a lot of stories to tell in this community, and I suspect we will not get to share as much as we would like with this first community-led performance, but I hope we can continue the work in the following years," Ybarra said.
Ybarra specializes in contemporary Chicana/o literature and ecocriticism. Her award-winning book, Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment, is the first study to engage a long-range environmental literary history of Chicana/o writing. In 2021-22, she was named the Clements Senior Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America as well as a member of inaugural class of the Rethink Outside Fellowship, which elevates and supports leaders and storytellers who transform the outdoor equity narrative.