ACLS Leading Edge Fellowships

The Leading Edge Fellowship program aims to demonstrate the potential of people with advanced degrees in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to solve problems outside the academy. In the first cycle of the fellowship competition, recent PhDs in art and architectural history and related fields will help communities respond to issues caused by the Covid-19 crisis and advance public understanding of the pandemic. This initiative is made possible through the support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows’ names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Juliana Rowen Barton
Juliana Rowen Barton
PhD, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Appointed to the Center for Craft for the project "Craft in Virtual Spaces"
see position description (abstract)
Founded in 1996, the Center for Craft is the leading organization in the United States identifying and convening craft makers, curators, and researchers, and matching them with resources, tools, and networks to advance their careers. Over the years, the Center has become a vital community resource, serving thousands of visitors annually through its Asheville, North Carolina gallery and coworking space. Reporting to the Assistant Director and Curator, the Leading Edge Fellow will develop and contribute to a portfolio of virtual community engagement and impact initiatives in support of the Center’s national field building programs. These programs seek to increase the value and relevance of craft to society through awarding grants and fellowships, convening thought leaders, documenting and disseminating research, and creating leadership initiatives in the field. A particular focus will be to document and measure the impact of the Center’s COVID-19 response grants, known as the Craft Futures Fund. The Leading Edge Fellow will work with Center for Craft staff, academic partner institutions, community advisory committees, scholar and artist grant recipients, and other audiences to support the Center's necessary pivot to virtual engagement. The successful candidate will take the lead on two projects. The first is developing virtual engagement programming around our grant recipients, including Craft Futures Fund grantees. The second is a collaboration with the Center’s academic and community partnerships, including the University of North Carolina at Asheville, to create a joint virtual lecture series addressing pertinent topics such as craft, race equity, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to these projects, the Fellow will provide support for two of the Center’s other national programs, including a Craft Think Tank and the symposium Craft Ways: Tending to Craft, a collaboration with Warren Wilson College.
Levi Prombaum
Levi Prombaum
PhD, History of Art, University College London
Appointed to MASS MoCA for the project "Centering Care in the Arts"
see position description (abstract)
Founded in 1999 in North Adams, MA, and located in a historic mill complex, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) seeks to catalyze and support the creation of new art, expose its visitors to bold visual and performing art during all stages of production, and re-invigorate the life of a region in socioeconomic need. The Leading Edge Fellow will design innovative public programming and forward equity and inclusivity partnerships among MCLA and other local community organizations and individuals. The Leading Edge Fellow will serve a vital role to develop the project's outreach both to the rural community of the Berkshires and to the extended urban populations that we serve. Potential community partners who represent other sites of work include the Berkshire Community Resource Center, which is MCLA's center for community engagement, and Soul Fire Farm, Multicultural BRIDGE, Roots Rising, and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. The fellow will contribute to the MASS MoCA/MCLA Care Syllabus, which aims to generate civic discourse and public engagement about COVID-19 through accessible and free online programming. The syllabus takes an integrative approach that brings unconventional educators who operate outside the academy in conversation with broader publics as well as traditional academics. Drawing on an antioppressive pedagogical framework that addresses the problem of access to such cultural programming (much of which has been cancelled since the pandemic), the fellow will develop a virtual project that will be free and accessible to the public, creating offerings specifically geared for local community members, and designing elements of the project that will extend the project's reach and relevance for nearby urban populations especially affected by COVID-19. The fellow will help design and organize the Care Syllabus’s counter pedagogical model that breaks from typical hierarchical structures of academia. The fellow will work with the "guest curators" of each of the modules to develop their content and conceive of its most accessible presentation online. Among invited "guest curators" are artist, activist, writer, performer, and educator Leah Lakshmi-Piepzna Samarsinha and multi-media artist Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow). The fellow will evaluate the impact of this type of programming which will form the basis of a sustainability plan with a tested framework for the modules.
Raino Isto
Raino Isto
PhD, Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland
Appointed to the Educational Video Center for the project "Amplifying the Youth Artist Activist Archive"
see position description (abstract)
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, EVC is an award-winning non-profit youth media organization dedicated to teaching documentary video as a means to develop the artistic, critical literacy, and career skills of young people, while nurturing their idealism and commitment to social change. Over the last three decades, we have supported positive life and career paths for 27,000 underserved youth, shared our proven media arts methodology with 15,000 practitioners, trained 1,100 teachers in our student-centered, culturally-responsive pedagogy, and received over 5 million global impressions for 200+ highly acclaimed youth-produced documentaries in our archive that have won over 130 awards. EVC works with historically marginalized youth who attend some of NYC’s poorest performing public high schools, where little or no media arts education is available. Of our total participants, 95% are youth of color, 80% live in poverty, 30% are immigrants and ELLs, 15% identify as LGBTQ+ and 70% are court/social services involved. For over 35 years EVC students have produced theatrical-quality short films on social justice issues impacting them and their communities. Our award winning archive of artful youth produced films explore topics such as police brutality, healthcare inequity, environmental racism, unequal education, gentrification, mental health struggles, LGBTQ+ discrimination and more. Given the current state of our world, it is critical that people continue to educate themselves about the ongoing legacies of structural racism and systems of oppression from those most impacted - particularly young people. Since our founding EVC has been committed to equity in who gets to tell these stories by amplifying youth voices and increasing the visibility of our incomparable archive of youth-produced documentary films created over the last three decades. EVC is gearing up to embark on a strategic planning process that will include new fundraising plans and strategy to increase all sources of funding to take our innovative youth media programming and youth-produced films to the next level. The Leading Edge Fellow will support the strategic direction and implementation of a development program to support EVC’s strategic objectives, particularly the distribution of its rare archive.
Emily Buhrow Rogers
Emily Buhrow Rogers
PhD, Sociocultural Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for the project "Chronicling Community Artists during COVID-19"
see position description (abstract)
The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage promotes greater understanding and sustainability of cultural heritage across the United States and around the world through research, education, and community engagement. Smithsonian Folklife is the Center’s digital magazine of music, food, craft, and culture. We tell unforgettable stories about people, ideas, and a wide array of arts and traditions that help us explore where we have come from and where we are going. Chronicling Community Artists during COVID-19 is a groundbreaking national series that explores one key question: how are folk and traditional artists and their communities responding to COVID-19? Local artists and musicians are powerful voices that express the values, struggles, and creative responses of their communities. As the unofficial spokespeople of many communities, they bond, bridge, and challenge. They strengthen ties within cultures, and they build understanding and empathy across cultural difference. These bonds create “social power”—shared values and ties that enable and facilitate cooperation and community building. Folk and traditional arts are a compelling gateway into understanding the culture, history, and problems facing communities across the country. Community artists and musicians are often agents of change, using traditional styles and practices as a foundation for addressing and overcoming the challenges of contemporary life, especially COVID-19 and the struggle against racism. Over the course of a year, Smithsonian Folklife Magazine will produce online stories and, in partnership with National Public Radio, occasional broadcast pieces to reach up to 18 million people per week. What can we learn about people through their local art forms? How do the stories of individuals and communities reflect significant issues such as environmental change, political conflict, economic marginalization, and the pandemic? How do people use culture to struggle against injustice? These are the questions we explore by investigating the social power of community arts. The project is rooted in the belief that awareness and appreciation of other cultures contribute to greater quality of life throughout the world. Pete Seeger said, “If humanity survives another century, it will be because of music,” and inspired by this vision, we strive to understand how music and other community arts are critical to the future well being of humankind. Segments may include interviews, artist profiles, reports from the field, in depth explorations into specific cultural expressions, and pieces that connect current events to relevant traditions.
Aisha Motlani
Aisha Motlani
PhD, Art History, Northwestern University
Appointed to Arts Alliance Illinois for the project "Researching Relief: Policy & Civic Engagement"
see position description (abstract)
Arts Alliance Illinois fights for arts resources and policies that benefit our members and all Illinois residents. As the only statewide, multidisciplinary organization concentrated on the strength of arts and culture, the Alliance takes on challenges that no single organization or artist can face alone. Our work in civic engagement, arts education, and cultural equity positively impacts every community across the state. The Leading Edge Fellow will produce original research and mine existing sources that can guide the organization’s policy proposals as we continue our efforts to bring relief to the creative sector in Illinois. The fellow will be expected to not only draw from existing state, local, and national data sources and create primary research on Illinois’ creative sector, but also to work alongside our Deputy Director to craft policy and programmatic initiatives in response to the needs of our member base. The Alliance has already identified the overarching fields of research to be COVID-19 relief efforts, arts education, and overall social impact and value assessment of arts and culture. The fellow will develop their project in collaboration with Arts Alliance staff and select two to three research projects that will generate either new or updated Arts Alliance advocacy and case-making assets. Potential projects include the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund impact and program evaluation; artist skill mapping to support potential workforce development policy recommendations; arts education policy recommendations that implement the arts indicator of the Illinois Every Student Succeeds Act; or the Illinois Creative Social Impact survey.