UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts (IAA)

The University of North Texas Institute for the Advancement of the Arts (IAA) was launched, along with UNT on the Square, on October 21, 2009. On the occasion of its opening, it was noted that the Institute's goal is to “further the university’s reputation for nurturing artistic and creative expression” by recognizing artistic contributions and sharing them with the public and enhancing the learning environment for UNT students.

These aspirations are encompassed in the Institute’s mission which is to showcase, support, and advance excellence in the visual, performing and creative literary arts at the University of North Texas, among its faculty members and in conjunction with their renowned colleagues and collaborators.

The IAA is an initiative of the offices of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Participating Colleges include the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Visual Arts and Design, and the College of Music. The Institute is housed at UNT on the Square.

The three central components of the Institute are UNT on the Square, the IAA Faculty Fellows program and the IAA Artist-in-Residence program.

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Kiki Smith named IAA Artist in Residence for 2013-14

Internationally renowned sculptor and printmaker Kiki Smith, who received a Department of State Medal of the Arts Award in 2012, is 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 will work with students, visiting classes to talk about her work. Throughout her residency, she will be producing prints and will present 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.

2013-2014 IAA Fellows

Three UNT faculty members have been named as the 2013-14 Institute for the Advancement of the Arts fellows. Robert Jessup, professor of studio arts; Bonnie Friedman, assistant professor of English; and Claudia Howard Queen, assistant professor of dance and theatre.  As fellows, the three professors will be granted a semester off from teaching duties to work on their projects full time.

Robert Jessup

Professor of Studio Arts Robert Jessup, a UNT faculty member since fall 1991, will use the fellowship to challenge his own style of painting. Jessup went to Europe five years ago as what he calls a “self-styled Realist painter” but came back with a desire to shake up his artistic style.

“The easiest description is to say the work has gone from Realistic Figuration to Abstraction – but that is not quite right. What I have been after is a new pictorial language, one where abstract forms signify in ways similar to figurative ones,” Jessup said. “I also want, once again in my work to make narrative pictures – albeit ones whose configurations are unfamiliar, or rather may in fact be familiar but only in subterranean psychological ways.”

Once finished, Jessup intends to show the work at UNT on the Square, and in Dallas and Houston. The work he has done so far will be shown at the Taylor Foundation in Paris in June, along with the works of six other American artists represented by the Besharat Gallery of Atlanta and Barbizon.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my work that the IAA Fellowship will provide,” said Jessup. “The funding is coming at such a great time for me. New ways of picture-making have consolidated in the last year and this fellowship will enable me to fully develop, explore and express these new ideas.”

Jessup instructs drawing and painting students in the College of Visual Arts and Design. His work is in several prominent public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the University of Virginia Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of the University of Texas  at Austin, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. He has been exhibiting for more than 30 years and has had multiple solo exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.


Bonnie Friedman

Assistant Professor of English Bonnie Friedman, a UNT faculty member since fall 2008, will use the fellowship to continue work on essays for her “Kingdoms of the Bronx” collection, which will be nine lyric creative-nonfiction essays when complete. Five of the essays for the collection have been published or accepted to be published in top-tier literary venues, with two of the essays nominated for prestigious Pushcart prizes and one selected as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays of 2012. The IAA fellowship will give Friedman the time needed to write the four remaining essays.

“‘Kingdoms of the Bronx’ is about the tension between the narrow material circumstances of a particular second-generation-immigrant Bronx community and the imaginative aspirations that promise escape,” Friedman said.  One person tries to escape through the intense study of physics, another through fierce devotion to the iron, old-world God of her grandmother, another through Weight Watchers, and another through sheer affability, even at the cost of downplaying his considerable intellect.  The people examined in this collection are searching for ways out of constricting circumstances, and often finding them, although they come with unexpected trade-offs.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have received this fellowship,” said Friedman. “It is difficult to hold an entire book that one is writing fully in mind during the course of a semester.  The time to devote exclusively to writing will allow me to make the kinds of intuitive, psychic inner connections that books require to be most deeply significant to readers.  I am excited to be able to compose the remaining essays for this collection and to do the kind of immersive work that allows for a strong, cohesive book.”

Essays from Friedman’s first book, “Writing Past Dark,” are anthologized and excerpted in seven different writing textbooks. The book was also selected to be a Village Voice Bestseller.  Friedman was selected to be a fellow at the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown and also at the MacDowell Arts Colony. She was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Her essays have been chosen for inclusion in The Best American Movie Writing, the Best Writing on Writing and The Practical Stylist.


Claudia Howard Queen

Assistant Professor of Music for Dance Claudia Howard Queen, a UNT faculty member since fall 2008, will use the fellowship to travel to sacred Celtic sites in Ireland known as "Thin Places, where the veil between heaven and earth are thin." Inspired by these sacred places, she will compose a 20-minute music score for a new dance work based on Celtic mysticism. The music will explore the use of female Sean-nós, a type of traditional Irish a cappella singing, and the mystical qualities of the pentatonic (five-tone) scale, and their effect on the body. Queen plans to premiere the final music/dance work in New York, choreographed by critically acclaimed choreographer, Sėan Curran and performed by the contemporary Irish dance company, Darrah Carr Dance.

“I truly believe that the arts can work hand-in-hand with science to uplift and improve the human condition intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically,” said Queen. “I see the IAA Fellowship as a great honor and also as a responsibility to strive to create something of significance toward this goal. I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

As a composer and multi-instrumentalist for dance, Queen creates uplifting, kinesthetic music that both moves the dancers physically and moves audiences emotionally. Her scores have toured the U.S., Ireland, England, Uruguay and Taiwan. She has collaborated with more than 200 instructors as a dance musician at the American Dance Festival, in NYC and Chicago studios, at universities throughout the U.S., in China and Taiwan. Queen has received two Fulbright Specialist Awards to share her music for dance with Taiwan's foremost dance school, Taipei National University of the Arts. In addition she has earned three awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her original music. She has performed with improvisational dance artists including Taiwanese company, Ku & Dancers. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU.