Emeritus Artist in Residence

Doug Wright

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Doug Wright worked with students and conducted research for upcoming works as the 2015-16 artist-in-residence for the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts at the University of North Texas.

"It seems like a wonderful opportunity to pursue my own writing and engage with a vibrant community," he said.

Wright, who grew up in the Dallas suburb of University Park, won the Pulitzer and Tony for his 2003 play, "I Am My Own Wife," which portrays a transgender woman's struggle to survive in Nazi Germany.

"Attracting Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Doug Wright as the UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts artist-in-residence is a testament to the quality the program has achieved as well as the national reputation the university enjoys in the arts," said Finley Graves, UNT'sinterim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"I hope to make progress on a new play of my own and in addition to speak to classes and do some community events in the area just to educate people about the theater and my role in it and in general create enthusiasm for one of the wonderful archaic seemingly immortal art forms," he said.

Wright got into that art form at age 11 when he wrote "The Devil's Playground" and his mother typed it up for him on her Underwood typewriter. He earned a bachelor's degree at Yale University and a master's of fine arts degree at New York University. He has taught at New York University, Yale Drama School and The Juilliard School.

Wright also wrote the stage and screen versions of "Quills," which imagines writerMarquis de Sade's last years in an insane asylum. His other works include the musicals "Grey Gardens," about eccentric mother and daughter Big Edie and Little Edie Beale; "The Little Mermaid," the stage adaption of the Disney animated film and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale; and "Hands on a Hard Body," about a competition in which contestants try to keep their hands on a car for the longest amount of time.

His most recent play was "Posterity," about a sculptor working on a piece of Henrik Ibsen, which Wright also directed in an off-Broadway production this year.


Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon, one of the literary world's most acclaimed writers, served as artist-in-residence for 2014-2015 for the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts at the University of North Texas. Photo courtesy of Aleksandar Hemon.

DENTON, Texas (UNT) -- One of the literary world's most acclaimed writers will serve as artist-in-residence for 2014-2015 for the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts at the University of North Texas.

Aleksandar Hemon, whose 2008 novel The Lazarus Project was a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle award and National Book Award, will visit the campus five times during the academic year, working with creative writing students, giving lectures and using the university's resources to complete his own work.

Hemon is a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina who lives in Chicago. He has received the MacArthur Genius Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

"In addition to his stellar reputation as a writer, he has expressed enthusiasm for meeting with students," said Herbert Holl, director of the IAA. "He has an outlook and personality that lend themselves well to a university community. I think our students and faculty will find him to be engaging and enjoyable."

Hemon said he was attracted to having access to amenities of a university and interacting with others.

"Every writer looks for readers," he said. "I like talking to people, testing my ideas, having my ideas challenged."

Hemon will make several one- or two-week visits throughout the academic year with possible projects to include seminars on Vladimir Nabokov's writing, showing films that draw on his experience as a screenwriter and meeting with science/medical students to discuss his writings dealing with the death of his daughter who died at 1 from a brain tumor.

"One of the goals is to spread the benefits of his residency across a range of many departments," Holl said.

Hemon also has written The Question of Bruno: Stories, a collection about life in Bosnia and America, and The Book of My Lives, a nonfiction book about his lives in Sarajevo and Chicago.

Hemon is hoping to write a series of essays on Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and considered one of literature's greatest writers, and his residency at UNT would give him time and access to resources to do that.

Critics have compared Hemon's style of writing to Nabokov.

"It's flattering, but I'm not delusional," he said, noting that Nabokov wrote 40 books in two languages. "I don't see myself in the same league."


Kiki Smith


Internationally renowned sculptor and printmaker Kiki Smith, who received a Department of State Medal of the Arts Award in 2012, served as the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts 2013-14 Artist in Residence.

Smith visited UNT in the spring of 2013, when she was the chosen speaker for the annual Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Lecture Series in Contemporary Sculpture and Criticism. In his introduction of Smith, College of Visual Arts and Design Dean Robert Milnes said, “Kiki Smith creates some of the most empathetic, intimate, imagistic and figurative works of our era. Her work is deeply spiritual and at the same time politically charged, addressing philosophical, social and spiritual aspects of human nature through prints, drawings, sculpture and installations.”

While at UNT, she worked with students, visited classes to talk about her work. Throughout her residency, she produced prints and presented the exhibition “Transformations” Jan. 29-Feb. 27 at UNT on the Square.

Said Smith. “I plan to use it [the residency] as an experimental time for learning ways new to me to create large landscape prints celebrating the Texas wildflowers.”

New York’s Museum of Modern Art calls Smith “one of the most significant artists of her generation.” She was among five artists who received the first Department of State Medal of the Arts Awards for the work they have done, including their artwork displayed in U.S. embassies around the world.

Known for her sculptures and prints, which often focus on female iconography, Smith’s artwork is in collections throughout the world including the Art Institute of Chicago, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


Nick Cave


Visual and performance artist Nick Cave served as the artist in residence for the University of North Texas Institute for the Advancement of the Arts in the 2011-12 academic year.

Cave, who studied at UNT in the 1980s, made several Denton trips to work with students, faculty members and community members in master classes, workshops and public lectures.

, was commissioned by the UNT Art Galleries and the institute to create a new performance piece with collaborative partners from the College of Music’s Department of Dance and Theatre and other UNT arts programs. The piece incorporated 30 newly created “Soundsuits” in the shapes of horse-like forms that moved through campus and evolved into hybrid beings. Cave is renowned for his elaborate Soundsuits sculptures — wearable art made of such items as twigs, beads, sequins, Easter grass and dryer lint. When worn, his Soundsuits envelop the body, making sounds as the materials brush together. (Denton Record Chronicle)

Click here to view performance

Click HERE to hear more



Jake Heggie


Jake Heggie teaching class during his residency at UNT in November, 2010.

 Jake Heggie, composer of the nationally acclaimed opera Moby-Dick, served as the artist-in-residence for the UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts for the 2010-11 academic year.

During his residency, Heggie worked on a commission to compose a major work for orchestra, chorus and soloist to further explore his interest in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Heggie coached composition and voice students and his chamber works and song cycles were featured in concerts throughout his residency.

The UNT Symphony Orchestra and Grand Chorus premiered the composition, Ahab Symphony, in April 2013. Internationally renowned tenor Richard Croft, professor of music, is slated to perform in the solo role of Ahab.

From the UNT College of Music Spotlights


The Privilege of Giving Back  Denton Record Chronicle article

Moby-Dick Composer Jake Heggie at UNT  KERA Art & Seek article


Guillermo Arriaga


Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga was the first artist-in-residence for Institute for the Advancement of the Arts.

His visit included a screening and discussion of his film The Burning Plain, a reading of his works and an open forum about film and filmmaking, in addition to work with UNT classes.

Arriaga was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007 for his screenplay for Babel, which also received nominations from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Writers Guild of America. In 2005, he won the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.

(Photo by Michael Clements)