CTSA Awards the 2023-24 Research & Innovation Grants

Image: UC Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts; photo by Will Nagel

The Research and Innovation Advisory Committee (RI Committee), composed of esteemed faculty members representing each department within the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), rigorously evaluated an influx of 33 research proposals requesting a total of $152,000 for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Following thorough deliberation, the committee awarded 17 grants, distributing $44,000 to fund a broad spectrum of research, performances, and exhibitions. The funded projects are notably diverse, ranging from pioneering the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in live performances to sonic-sculptural projects that interact with explore relationships between different species and their shared environments. These initiatives not only reflect the cutting-edge research and artistic exploration at UCI but also align closely with the CTSA’s strategic objectives. 

The RI committee is led under the leadership of Associate Dean of Research and Innovation, Jesse Colin Jackson, dedicated to cultivating experimental and arts-based research to innovate and challenge creativity in this century and beyond.

The Grand Prize Winners

This year two grand prizes are awarded to faculty members for their leading-edge research agendas, interdisciplinary collaborations, and strong potential for external recognition and support. 

Joel Veenstra, Professor, Drama ($6,000 Faculty Art Prize): Futuristic Harmony: Evolving Improvisation and Humanity with Emergent Technology in Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Image: Improvisation meets emerging technologies redefining artistic expression and human interaction, probing both the expansive potential and the inherent challenges of the digital frontiers; Image by Joel Veenstra

Professor Joel Veenstra, M.F.A. ‘11, is a professional stage manager whose production credits span Los Angeles to London. Veenstra co-leads the Department of Drama’s stage management program as a professor of teaching in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. As co-founder of the Global Improvisation Initiative and a member of the Applied Improvisation Network, Veenstra also teaches improvisation skills to business executives and healthcare professionals to spur their creativity, connection and innovation. Additionally, he is a longtime supporter of CTSA’s Theatre Guild and a charter member of the Claire Trevor Society. 

Futuristic Harmony seeks to redefine artistic expression and human interaction, probing both the expansive potential and the inherent challenges of these digital frontiers. The core of this project is the development of an immersive, interactive theatrical experience that harnesses virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Beginning with theatrical and performance-based improvisation to engage professional improvisational artists to craft evolving, reactive narratives and experiences, the virtual reality integration component will engage responsive VR environments that adapt fluidly to live performances. The AI-powered collaboration of the piece will utilize artificial intelligence for both creative co-construction and real-time analysis of audience responses — enhancing narrative depth and engagement. This experience aims not only to offer novel engagement methods for audiences but also to serve as a reflective model for future intersections of technology and live performance.

This venture represents a bold foray into new artistic and technological domains, while championing innovation at the art-technology nexus and a groundbreaking paradigm in interactive and transformative artistic experiences. 

Jennifer Bornstein, Professor, Art ($6,000 Faculty Art Prize): Music Swims Back to Me
Professor of Art Jennifer Bornstein has been a faculty member in the Department of Art since 2017 where she teaches photography. She is an artist producing work in a variety of media both materially and conceptually with photographic processes. She has received numerous awards and grants, including the Foster Prize from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University; the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm fellowship in Berlin, Germany and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. 

Music Swims Back to Me is a mixed-media artistic project tracing the lives of two poets, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.

Image: Jennifer Bornstein, Backwards refinneJ, 2024; image courtesy of the artist

2023-2024 Research & Innovation Grant Recipients:

Talin Abadian, Ph.D. candidate, Drama: Performing with Waste: Queering Environmental Activism 
Performing with Waste studies how queer performance problematizes our relationship with plastic waste and offers a rethinking of how we can exist at the proximity of plastics, especially in times of dire environmental crises. 

Fabricio Cavero Farfan, Ph.D. candidate, Music: Tusuy Tech — Shape, Motion, and Sound
Integrating expressions of shape, motion and sound through technologies (different paths, same intention).

John Crawford, Professor, Dance: The Salt Marsh Project
The Salt Marsh Project is a short film, an immersive installation and an intermedia dance performance that respond to ways in which inhabitants have engaged with salt ponds on North America's Pacific and Atlantic coasts. 

Johnathan Gerrard, Ph.D. candidate, Music: Abolition and Classical Guitar: The Musical Life of Justin Holland
A lecture-recital set to be filmed at UC Irvine in 2024, the performance centers around classical guitarist, Justin Holland, his music, and his legacy as a civil rights activist.

Oliver George-Brown, Ph.D. candidate, Music: Burning Bush
Burning Bush is a development of sonic-sculptural work (to be installed at UCI’s Burns-Piñon Ridge Reserve), which responds to both human and environmental stimuli as a means of exploring transspecies relationality and ecological copresence.

Liz Glynn, Professor, Art: Agentic Fragments
Agentic Fragments is a multi-channel sound work paired with a new sculptural installation composed of 3-D prints that builds upon Professor Glynn’s ongoing research into the cultural property controversies surrounding the ownership of the Parthenon marbles and demands for their return to Greece from the British Museum.

Chieh Huang, Ph.D. candidate, Music: Weaving Worlds: The Interlacing of Atayal Language and Heritage into Contemporary Composition
Experience the rich cultural exchange between the Atayal people of Taiwan and American Indian communities as they engage in contemporary composition dialogues in Weaving Worlds.

Mari Kimura, Professor, Dance: MUGIC(R)_ED
MUGIC(R)_ED examines the software development of MUGIC® motion sensor used in research and creative activities.

Tianding He, Ph.D. candidate, Drama: The Six+1 Characters in Search of an Assembly
A collaborative lecture performance retelling stories around iconic characters represented in the 2023 Shanghai Halloween Parade. 

Daphne Lei, Professor, Drama: Roots, Routes, and Reroots: Transnational Food Network & Experimental Culinary Performance
A two-part project that investigates the “routes and roots” (using anthropologist James Clifford’s terms) of food and culinary practice and examines the intercultural mutation and adaptability of food. 

Laura Li, M.F.A. candidate, Art: 春⻛吹 SAANG (Survivors Anchoring Art Narrative Garden) 
SAANG (Survivors Anchoring Art Narrative Garden) is a multidisciplinary project set in an imaginative land existing in text, images and the internet, centering on sexual trauma survivors and their healing journeys.

Maggie Liang, M.F.A. candidate, Dance: 思想武装|Armed with Thought
This dance theater piece is a survey into the performers' multi-cultural history, humorous critique of the present and a utopic imagination conveyed through speech, movement and stage design conjoining the talents from CTSA’s drama and dance departments.

Vincent Olivieri, Professor, Drama: WHITE PRIVILEGE 
WHITE PRIVILEGE is a multi-disciplinary performance that combines lecture and live electronic music performance into an exploration of and meditation on the impact of white privilege on systems, structures, and people in the United States.

Gintaute Skvernyte, M.F.A. candidate, Art: Film Production 
A film delving into the urban structures associated with natural resources in Los Angeles.

Devin Wilson, M.F.A. candidate, Art: The Pigeon Has Landed
Serving as both a reflection on obsolete technology in delivery services and an exploration of pigeons as agents of militarized spying, the project confronts the whimsical yet unsettling conspiracy theory that posits "birds aren't real."

Special Thanks

Associate Dean Colin Jackson, and on behalf of the RI Committee, would like to express deep appreciation to Dean Tiffany López, Stacey Nicholas, and the Claire Trevor Society for their substantial financial support, which has been instrumental in sustaining this essential program.

Posted Date: 
Friday, May 3, 2024