In 2004 Indiana University, which had long prioritized the arts and humanities, was beginning to feel the impacts of a decline in federal funding supporting these important areas.
The situation demanded, as then IU President Adam W. Herbert noted, that the university embrace its conviction that investment in the arts and humanities was “fundamental to knowing oneself, to deepening our understanding of the human condition and to living well.”
Working proactively to ensure the vitality of this longstanding strategic priority, IU leadership -- including current IU President Michael A. McRobbie in his former role as the university’s vice president for research -- crafted an initiative in 2004 that was funded for five years as part of a broader Lilly Endowment effort to recruit and retain the state’s greatest intellectual assets.
The great thing about what results from investment in the arts and humanities is that things are added to the world that weren’t there before.Mike Wilkerson, Association of Arts Administration Educators board member and lecturer on arts administration at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
That 2004 initiative included IU’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities seed funding program. McRobbie has since renewed the program twice, first in 2009 with an internal infusion of $5 million, and again in Spring 2015 with a third investment of $5 million.
Today, 10 years after a first, select group of artists and scholars was funded through the vision of IU’s leaders and that original Lilly Endowment grant, Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program has matured into a leading catalyst for human creativity and intellectual pursuit in the arts and humanities in higher education.
The numbers might speak clearly enough to the reach of the program: more than 750 grants have been awarded to over 450 IU faculty members representing eight IU campuses during the New Frontiers decade. Collectively, the investment tops over $9.4 million in grants to its scholars and artists in fine arts, foreign language, opera, music, dance, world history, religion and literature. IU scholars have traveled the world and back again, from Belgium and Belize to Kazakhstan and Kenya, to Angola, Ireland, Tibet and Wales, all in search of creative inspiration, intellectual achievement and scholarly endeavor.
But resonating more clearly than the statistics of the New Frontiers decade are the voices of the New Frontiers scholars as they speak here to the possibilities and the profits of the program and, more importantly, as they share examples of their achievements: operas and ballets, photographs and videos, novels and plays, exhibitions and installations, new historical perspectives and virtual museums, symposia, colloquiums, speakers’ series, workshops, conferences and more.
New Frontiers was designed to aid arts and humanities scholars in four ways:
- To help them produce innovative works of scholarship and creative activities.
- To provide the seed funding needed for them to venture into new trajectories of work.
- To fund academic events hosting major distinguished thinkers.
- To support national and international travel in pursuit of new, innovative projects.
The program's flexibility within these four funding arms has spawned benefits that reach beyond the scholars themselves.
IU students have been inspired:
IU Bloomington associate professor of Latino studies John Nieto-Phillips, winner of a 2005 New Frontiers grant, said his students received individual training and mentorship that they would not have received otherwise. “The results of this kind of mentorship are probably not quantifiable,” he said.
New external funding has been awarded:
IU Bloomington professor of Germanic Studies Kari Ellen Gade and IUPUI Herron School of Art and Design Dean Valerie Eickmeier both used their successful New Frontiers grant writing experiences to secure new funds that flowed into the university. Gade landed a $50,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant after New Frontiers facilitated a pilot project, and Eickmeier earned three grants collectively worth $190,000 following a New Frontiers-funded public sculpture exhibit. Following her 2007 New Frontiers project analyzing the relationship between radio technology and southern Africa politics, IU Bloomington associate professor of history Marissa J. Moorman received an additional $88,000 in external funding in 2010 to further that work.
Communities have been enriched:
“Thought-provoking theatre.” “A masterful in-the-round staging.” “A provocative new reading.” That’s how the national press of South Africa lauded IU Bloomington associate professor of acting and directing Murray McGibbon’s New Frontiers-supported staging of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 2007. Two years later those same South African and IU student actors performed the work again, this time on the IU Bloomington campus.
According to National Geographic, the avant-garde telematic musical "Auksalaq," co-created by New Frontiers winner and IUPUI music professor Scott Deal, left participants in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, “stunned, speechless, silent and still for long moments before erupting in applause. ... Auksalaq bears witness to a consequential step in our evolution.” The performance about the Arctic and climate change premiered simultaneously at IUPUI and six other venues – from Alaska to Norway – via the Internet.
IU’s visibility has been raised:
The research produced from a New Frontiers grant to William R. Newman, IU Bloomington Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, was used in the documentary "Newton’s Dark Secrets" by the Emmy Award-winning television series "Nova," which airs in over 100 countries. Footage of Isaac Newton’s experiments being replicated was captured in an IU laboratory for the documentary.
Before he became Brooklyn-based artist N_Drew, former IU Bloomington Department of Telecommunications professor Andrew Bucksbarg used New Frontiers funding for technical support to create exhibits and solo shows displayed at the Sea and Space Gallery in Los Angeles, the Piksel Festival in Bergen, Norway, The Science Gallery in Dublin and the St. Louis Art Museum. “Andrew Bucksbarg’s projects epitomize the way great sounds and images can work together," reviewers wrote in L.A. Weekly.