A new grant opportunity, a spring festival, and other efforts highlight the importance of faculty and student work in those fields
Recognizing the crucial role that the arts and humanities play in our lives, Tufts is taking steps to support faculty and students who study, work, and create in those fields.
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) has announced new funding opportunities for faculty endeavors in the arts and humanities, an upcoming arts and humanities festival, and the university’s membership in a national organization devoted to promoting and protecting the place of humanities in American life.
While the OVPR has invested in the arts and humanities since its very first research and scholarship strategic plan, these new efforts reflect the importance the university places on these fields, Vice Provost for Research Bernard Arulanandam said.
“Over the past 14 months since I joined Tufts, I’ve had the privilege to see the accomplishments that our arts and humanities faculty and students have made. These fields are essential to the diversity of our research portfolio, help us connect with our communities, and contribute to our research and education goals as an R1 AAU institution,” said Arulanandam, referring to Tufts’ classification as a university with very high research activity and its membership in the Association of American Universities.
“I have made it a priority to further this work through strategic investments to support projects and raise the profile of these endeavors within and outside of Tufts,” he said.
Amy Gantt, director of strategic research development for the OVPR, said these efforts support Tufts’ mission to have broad impact on the world. “When we talk about the impact of the science and technology and other great things that we are doing at Tufts, people forget the more qualitative side of things and the ways that hearts and minds are changed,” she said. “A real liberal arts education prepares us for so many different avenues that we might take in our lives, and it helps us to learn how to think in ways that are different from—but complementary to—how scientists think.”
The Muse: Arts, Humanities, and Humanistic Social Sciences Program at Tufts is a new intramural grant sponsored by the OVPR. The awards, of up to $7,500 per year, will be offered annually, with applications due the third week in October.
Faculty from any Tufts school may apply, as long as their project is grounded in the arts, humanities, or humanistic social sciences. Humanistic social sciences projects could include, for example, studies in economics, political science, or anthropology that use interviews rather than quantitative data.
“We want to celebrate the breadth of amazing work that’s being done in the arts and humanities at Tufts, to capture that excitement and make it more visible to the rest of the Tufts community.”
The Muse grants complement the Tufts Springboard Research and Scholarship Grants, an existing intramural funding program sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the OVPR, and Tufts Medicine. While Springboard has funded and will continue to fund humanities work, that program is geared toward proposals that will lead to additional research and external funding. Some arts and humanities projects have more finite aims and needs, such as money to complete a book or to travel to an archive. That’s where the Muse funding comes in.
“Whether it’s to hire a student for a summer, be able to put on an exhibition, or be able to elevate your work to a bigger audience, this is the kind of funding that can help you do that,” Gantt said.
In general, Gantt said, external funding for arts and humanities is limited and very competitive, especially from federal sources. The two main sources, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), look for proposals that are politically neutral, which can hamstring artists and scholars.
“It’s very hard to make sure you’re walking that line when many times people are taking a stand through their creations that this is what they want to see in the world,” Gantt said.
Although Tufts faculty are often chosen for NEA and NEH funding, the Muse grants will give faculty more freedom to express their point of view.
The NEA and NEH are constantly under threat of defunding by Congress, which is one reason that Tufts has become a member of the National Humanities Alliance. The alliance is a coalition of colleges, universities, libraries, cultural organizations, and related groups that advocates for the value of the humanities.
“The alliance helps ensure that humanities and investments in them stay a federal priority and make sure that they are recognized and valued within universities and beyond,” Gantt said.
The OVPR is also planning the first of what it hopes will be an annual event: a Tufts arts and humanities festival slated for the spring. While details are still in the works, and faculty will guide the offerings, the on-campus event could include theater and music performances, art exhibits, poetry readings, film screenings, history presentations, and panel discussions.
“We want to celebrate the breadth of amazing work that’s being done in the arts and humanities at Tufts, to capture that excitement and make it more visible to the rest of the Tufts community,” Gantt said.