Summary of Research Projects

Funded Projects

The State University of New York announced $160,000 in funding for projects supported by the SUNY Arts and Humanities Network of Excellence, which fosters student and faculty research by encouraging collaboration among SUNY campuses, local organizations, and leading experts in the field.

Nine collaborative projects involving 14 campuses will improve health and disability services, advance sustainability technologies, strengthen communities, and promote diplomacy.

2015-2016 Research Projects


Building Interdisciplinary Approaches to Study the Chinese View of the Global Order

PI: Tze-Ki Hon, SUNY Geneseo
Co-PIs: Kristin Stapleton, University at Buffalo; Xin Fan, SUNY Fredonia
Award Amount: $10,619

Abstract: In the context of "the rise of China," this pilot AaH project will facilitate a multi-campus collaboration aimed at providing students and scholars a more complex view of Chinese thinking about the global order during the interwar period (1915-1945). Via close reading of select seminal Chinese texts within their socio-historical context, this project will deepen our understanding of Chinese world views by focusing not on short-term political interests, but on long-standing presuppositions developed from the harsh realities of wars and chaos. Thus, a defining characteristic of this project is its analysis of Chinese pessimism about competition in an unjust and unlawful world where only powerful countries can survive. Contrary to current scholarship that emphasizes the impact of Confucian notions of harmony and reciprocity on Chinese foreign policy, this project will draw attention to Chinese strategies in response to an amoral world where it is difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies. To analyze this Chinese pessimistic view of the global order, this project will initiate interdisciplinary dialogue among SUNY humanities and social sciences scholars around two concepts: (1) connective comparison (e.g., China's appropriation of aspects of American and Soviet ideologies and institutions), and (2) multidirectional citation (e.g., Chinese reinterpretations of their past and selective adoption of Japan's vision of East Asian modernity).


AAH Network of Excellence in Health, Disability, Medicine and the Arts-Humanities

PI: James Bono, University at Buffalo (UB)
Co-PIs: Rachel Ablow, UB; Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, UB; Ann Bisantz, UB; Kim Griswold, UB; Graham Hammill, UB; Fred Klaits, UB; Victor Paquet, UB; Linda Pessar-Cowan, UB
Award Amount: $15,000

Abstract: Our project promotes the arts and humanities’ public mission through embracing an “applied” model of scholarship, teaching, and community engagement. We propose to do so by wedding medical humanities and disability studies: on the one hand attending to narratives of health, illness, and disability with their capacity to reveal and negotiate stubborn, often unforeseen, obstacles and resistances among those most in need of effective interventions; on the other, reimagining technologies of disability as vehicles for transforming the lives of individuals through critical humanistic and artistic framing of performatively effective interventions. The critical study of how technologies impact lives has not kept up with the development of the technologies themselves. With an increasingly aging population, as well as an increasing number of people living after traumatic injuries and with chronic illnesses, it is crucial that we examine closely the effects of technological innovation on everyday life. By facilitating intercampus discussion and exchanges, we propose to build an interdisciplinary team with the diverse expertise needed to address this gap in knowledge, help design effective interventions, and positively impact the lives of disabled and patient populations.


AAH Network: feed back - future feed: visioning New Paltz as a case study

PI: Andrea Frank, SUNY New Paltz
Co-PIs: Jeffrey Freedman, University at Albany; Joyce Hwang, University at Buffalo; Emily Puthoff, SUNY New Paltz
Award Amount: $20,000

Abstract: Feed back- Future Feed engages both the SUNY system and the community of New Paltz in a creative, visionary, and transdisciplinary dialogue with the goal of collaboratively rethinking and redesigning systems, experiences, and aesthetics of sustainable living in the face of climate change and other threats to our living environment. The goal is to collectively envision radically sustainable and innovative systems which integrate the interconnected concepts of food, waste, energy, water, habitat, transportation, data, labor, and social structures. We aim to understand and experiment with how a perspective that is carbon-neutral, ecosystem-sensitive, and socially inclusive can point to a new living and learning experience. By looking at New Paltz, NY with the campus as a node of the SUNY system as a case study and setting a goal of carbon neutrality and sustainability for the town by 2025, we want to challenge ourselves to build visionary proposals at a town scale. The research team will build systems thinking based collaborative proposals utilizing a range of tools that include system drawing, a 3D model of the town, and a mobile engagement hub through which we will engage a range of intergenerational and transdisciplinary constituencies. We will harness the research and educational potential of the participating universities, as well as the innovative spirit of the several sustainability and art-related initiatives that already exist in the area and beyond.  


AAH Network: City of Buffalo – East Side History Project

PI: Jeffrey Kujawa, University at Buffalo (UB)
Co-PIs: Henry L. Taylor, Jr., UB; Daniel M. DiLandro, SUNY Buffalo State; Anne Conable, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library; Michael Frisch, Randforce Associates, LLC; Casmiro Rodriguez Sr., Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York; David Greenman, King Urban Life Center
Award Amount: $20,000

Abstract: The project will continue an existing partnership with the intent of major grant proposals from SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Urban Studies (UB CENTER), SUNY Buffalo St. College, Buffalo/Erie Co. Public Library (BECPL), Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY, Randforce Associates, and King Urban Life Center of Buffalo, NY. This project will expand the UB CENTER’s work on an Institute for Museum and Library Services grant (2012-2014) that produced a collection of historical documents of an area in Buffalo for the Digital Commons (DC) of the BECPL. The DC is a public history project that created a database accessible to the community for the purpose of disseminating and manipulating historical document collections. This award will continue our relationship with the BECPL, and expand our partnerships to include other SUNY institutions interested in contributing to a public history project about the entire East Side of Buffalo. This is a pioneering project that connects the digital collection of a community’s history with the collective engagement of residents and their involvement in telling the history of their community. The work of neighborhood groups, libraries and professional historians creates the opportunity to produce history from the bottom-up. The project will identify and collect documents to be added to the DC and work with the community via workshops, outreach, and presentations. Finally, the project team will identify and apply to external sponsors to grow in scope the DC. 


AAH Network: Purchase College Center for Community & Culture in Yonkers

PI: Steven Lam, SUNY Purchase
Co-PIs: Brenda Cowan, SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology; Christopher Robbins, SUNY Purchase
Award Amount: $19,140

Abstract: The Purchase College Center for Community & Culture (PC4) is being created to drive social impact and relevance focusing on how artists, designers, scholars, students and local organizations can act as agents of urban recovery and community empowerment. A 4,000 square foot cultural space located in downtown Yonkers at 16 Warburton Avenue, PC4 will serve as a vibrant and dynamic space for community engagement. Purchase College is seeking seed money to establish a partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology to engage a wide range of students across the two campuses to engage with local residents in the following three program areas:

• Education Programs: Workshops, adult classes, youth classes, and long-term apprenticeship programs (semester length/summer length programs) will be held in the space.
• Critical Inquiry and Creative Engagement: PC4 will serve as a home base in which local residents work collaboratively with the two campus communities through workshops, courses, and public programs.
• Ongoing cultural events, performances, screenings, and exhibitions: Each month, the PC4 space will hold free public programs that relate to the initiatives listed above. Art and lectures on a variety of topics will be presented for interaction, involvement and reaction by the local population and creative communities. These events build awareness of the organization, connect multiple constituencies, and reaffirm the importance of culture in politics and place.


AAH Network: Creatively Exploring Place, Self, and Collective Identity.

PI: Cynthia Clabough, SUNY Oswego (Oswego)
Co-PIs: Barbara Beyerbach, Oswego; Sharon Kane, Oswego; Rebecca Mushtare, Oswego; Kelly Roe, Oswego; Barron Naegel, Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC); Elizabeth Brownell, FLCC; Lacey McKinney, FLCC; Jim Roberts, Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC); Todd R. Behrendt, MVCC
Award Amount: $15,000

Abstract: Based on the theory of “Narrative Identity,” this project intends to work with students in communities struggling with shifting economic/demographic realities. Our collaborative aspires to empower students to use artistic expression to explore identity and visualize their own potential. We intend to have creative works in public spaces with shifting narratives that deconstruct identity and present strategic narratives intent on reshaping and redirecting collective identity. Our objective is to provide a window in which K-16 students living in central and upstate New York project into the world a sense of who they are and what it means to live in their community. Whether through written stories, audio narratives, documentary/experimental forms, expressive works, or mixed media; whatever the modality, the project supports collectively constructing a malleable picture of place that is woven from the creative expression of its citizens. The project is designed to engage students through college-to-college collaboration, and through college-to-K-12 school partnerships. Flexible by design, the project creates space for participants to contribute in ways that make sense for them and their communities. Culminating in exhibits, public art projects, performances, and participatory forms, we will collect and promote these creative endeavors online, linking work by region/location. Participants and community of visitors will also explore the project online as it comes alive.


AAH Network: Building Broad Support for the Arts

PI: Ravi Rajan, SUNy Purchase
Co-PIs: David Campbell, Binghamton University (BU); Susan Appe, BU; Margy Waller, Topos Partnership
Award Amount: $20,000

Abstract: SUNY faculty from Purchase and Binghamton campuses are collaborating with Topos Partnership to extend a research initiative designed to develop a communications strategy that would yield a broad sense of shared responsibility for support of the arts. The results of the initiative, conducted in the Ohio Valley area of Cincinnati were released broadly in 2010; however, the findings have never been confirmed through research in other locations. While they speculate that a new inquiry conducted elsewhere will identify many dynamics that resonate with those in Cincinnati, it is also inevitable that the new research would yield insights specific to a different location. The project will test the findings in other communities in New York and across the United States. This team seeks seed funding to explore the following four areas in order to prepare a proposal for further external funding.

1. Identification of research sites and additional partners in those locations (Potential New York sites include New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse)
2. Development of the research design/data collection instruments.
3. Discussion of the role of smaller cities/communities such as Binghamton in the development of this project.
4. Discussion of long-term research strategies, including design for use in the academic setting and use by faculty and students of arts administration, public administration, arts entrepreneurship, visual arts, and performance.


AAH Network: Dance, Diplomacy and Peace Education for a New Generation of Artists

PI: Nelly Van-Bommel, SUNY Purchase
Co-PI: Christine Merrilees, SUNY Geneseo; Andrew Fitz-gibbon, SUNY Cortland; Shawn Lent; Steven Lam, SUNY Purchase; Anne Burnridge, University at Buffalo; Karl Rogers, SUNY Brockport
Award Amount: $20,000

Abstract: Faculty from SUNY campuses Purchase, Cortland and Geneseo are collaborating with technical expert Shawn Lent to design a research project investigating how engagement in body-based arts experiences can positively impact Conflict Resolution and Track 3 Diplomacy and how the knowledge and capacities to lead such dance experiences can be assessed and taught in order to empower a new generation of artists.

Primary research questions would be:

• How is peace felt and understood by children through engaging in body-based arts experiences?
• What is the importance of social practice dance interventions for children living in divided communities, countries with perpetuated and reciprocal distrust, or areas of potential or factual violence?
• How does social practice dance inspire an ecosystem of body-based arts engagement and entrepreneurship?
• What knowledge and capacities are important for American artists wanting to do this work as sustainable interventions?

There is an existing body of research showing that personal healing and community change can take place through dance. The team’s hypothesis is that social practice dance experiences have the capacity to positively disrupt the norm, provide positive and immediate results for areas of conflict, thus inspiring future work by local artists and long-term outcomes. These experiences can be beneficial while requiring few resources other than travel for the visiting artist(s) and documentarian.


AAH Network: Using Architecture to Transform Abandoned Buildings and Stimulate Dialogue

PI: Christopher Robbins, SUNY Purchase
Co-PIs: Omar Khan, University at Buffalo (UB); Michael Gayk, SUNY New Paltz; Matthew Friday, SUNY New Paltz; Raphael Zollinger, SUNY Purchase; Nicholas Bruscia, UB; Jordan Geiger, UB
Award Amount: $20,000

Abstract: SUNY professors Christopher Robbins (Purchase), Omar Khan (Buffalo) and Michael Gayk (New Paltz) and Matthew Friday (New Paltz) are collaborating on a project initiated by Ghana ThinkTank that transposes a Moroccan-style riad courtyard upon abandoned brick buildings. In doing so, they will develop a framework for a series of service-learning courses that will utilize digital fabrication tools and skills exchange to create a tessellated arch, while training local residents in the skills needed to benefit from economic development. The work is also designed to instigate a dialogue around race relations, immigration, the relationship between America and Islamic culture, and the negative and positive role of outsiders. The initial phase of the work would occur in the north end of Detroit as a result of existing partnerships, $110,000 of committed external funding from Ghana ThinkTank and The Kindle Project, with additional potential funding opportunities such as ArtPlace, The Kresge Foundation, and the J.M. Kaplan fund. This research would then be applied to the network of surrounding communities on Lakes Ontario and Erie affected by the economic and social pressures resulting from the degradation of the manufacturing and chemical industries, including New York cities such as Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Syracuse, and Oswego.

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