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By Jessica Weiss ’05

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in early 2020, Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell felt a growing anxiety that the last time she would see her loved ones might be on a video call. 

Bendell, who works with electronic media to explore themes of vulnerability, visibility and longing, began to attempt to preserve her friends and family through her work using images of their faces from video chats. 

In her video project “Sketch for Sleepers,” Bendell projects those images in 3D onto stock digital silhouettes of human bodies that float across a screen. 

artwork by Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell

The work is on display now until Dec. 3 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery as part of a triennial exhibition of professional work by Department of Art faculty and adjunct faculty. Part of the campuswide Arts for All initiative, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking through collaborations across the arts, sciences and other disciplines, Faculty Exhibition 2021 showcases works from 20 faculty members in a range of mediums. It is the first in-person art exhibition held at the Art Gallery since it closed in March 2020. 

“The exhibition honors faculty work while emphasizing that their scholarship and teaching is grounded first and foremost in an art-making practice,” said Art Gallery Associate Director Taras W. Matla. “Having been closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, this is a terrific way to reintroduce the Art Gallery and art department faculty to the campus community.” 

Professor of Art Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020” wood and acrylic wall sculpture emerged from elements related to his state of mind during lockdown. It’s made of wooden sticks that represent the many people affected by the virus. 

artwork by Professor of Art Foon Sham

“There are various colors of wood sticks and some are stained with red and blue, implying all the damage this virus could do,” he said. 

Many of the works also address socio-political issues and social justice. For instance, Lecturer Julia Kwon’s “Dissent” is inspired by the fight for abortion rights, via the format of traditional Korean object-wrapping cloth with embedded patterns. And Assistant Professor Jessica Gatlin’s “Work Related” is a series of wearable canvas “paintings” that comment on themes of sustainability, labor, consumption and capitalism.   

Assistant Professor Cy Keener, whose work blends art, science and technology, is exhibiting “Terminal Front,” a virtual reality experience that allows people to visit a remote and uninhabitable landscape in Greenland. Using scientific data gathered from the site—via custom laser scanners built by the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory—paired with detailed drone photography, the VR user can immerse in a massive and detailed landscape of a glacier’s surface. 

art by Assistant Professor Cy Keener

Keener and Bendell are among faculty instructors in the new immersive media design major, co-taught by faculty from the Department of Art and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The program prepares students to use digital tools and technologies including virtual and augmented reality, digital art, projected imagery, computer graphics, 3D modeling and user interfaces spanning audio, visual and tactile platforms.

Additional participating faculty artists include: Emily Conover, Patrick Craig, Pete Cullen, Brandon Donahue, Wendy Jacobs, Richard Klank, Matthew McLaughlin, Brandon Morse, Irene Pantelis, Narendra Ratnapala, John Ruppert, Justin Strom, Athena Tacha, Jowita Wyszomirska and Rex Weil. 

In addition, an In Memoriam section recognizes the vast contributions to the Department of Art made by longtime faculty members David C. Driskell (1931-2020) and James Thorpe (1951-2021). 

Visit the Faculty Exhibition 2021 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building until Dec. 3, 2021. Free and open to the public, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Photos from top to bottom of page: Visitors at Faculty Exhibition 2021; Mollye Bendell's video project “Sketch for Sleepers;" Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020; " A visitor experiences Cy Keener’s “Terminal Front.” Photos by Thai Q. Nguyen.

Thursday, December 09, 2021 - 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM

Robert Levine, professor of English, will discuss "The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.


As part of Arts for All, a campuswide initiative leveraging the combined power of the arts, technology and social justice to address the grand challenges of our time, the College of Arts and Humanities presented violin prodigy and social justice advocate Vijay Gupta as part of the 2021–22 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series. Gupta spoke to a crowd of students, faculty and staff at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Gildenhorn Recital Hall on October 21, 2021.

Gupta, who in 2007 became the youngest violinist ever to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has emerged as a leading voice for the role of music to heal, inspire, provoke change and foster social connection. A 2018 MacArthur Fellow, he is the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, a nonprofit that presents musical events and workshops to Los Angeles communities disenfranchised by homelessness, poverty and incarceration. His lecture was followed by a Q&A with Associate Dean for Arts and Programming Patrick Warfield.

In addition to his lecture, Gupta worked with students from the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra. The event was co-sponsored by the School of Music.

View the full photo gallery here.

If you are a UMD student or UMD faculty/staff member, you can login to watch the recording at this link.

Read more about Vijay Gupta in a Q&A about his visit. 

Photos by David Andrews. 

The talk is part of a series centering ARHU faculty expertise on issues of systemic racism, inequality and social justice.

Date of Publication: 
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Friday, November 19, 2021 - 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM

Janelle Wong, professor of American Studies, will discuss "At the Crossroad: Black and Asian American Relations in U.S. Politics Today.”


By Jessica Weiss ’05

In late 2009, violinist Vijay Gupta got a call from L.A. Times journalist Steve Lopez. Gupta, then 21, had two years earlier become the youngest ever member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the world’s preeminent orchestras. Now a friend of Lopez’s named Nathaniel Ayers wanted a lesson. 

Ayers, a talented musician in his own right, had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness and ended up homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. He was the subject of Lopez's bestselling book “The Soloist” as well as a subsequent movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez and Jamie Foxx as Ayers. 

Gupta had never taught before, but he didn’t hesitate. He began visiting Ayers in Skid Row, the largest community of unhoused people in the United States, where the two Juilliard-trained musicians bonded over Beethoven, scales and technique.

Gupta also wondered how many others in Los Angeles’ homeless population were like Ayers—brilliant and talented but disenfranchised due to mental illness, addiction or simple bad luck. Gupta didn’t know how, but he knew he wanted to offer music to Skid Row.

A year later, Gupta founded Street Symphony, a nonprofit that brings music to homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles through workshops, events and educational opportunities. He is also a co-founder of the Skid Row Arts Alliance, a consortium of arts organizations made up of people living and working in Skid Row. For his work “bringing beauty, respite and purpose to those all too often ignored by society,” Gupta was the recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship. 

Ten years since its founding, Street Symphony’s roster of artists—made up of professionals and community musicians—now numbers 90. They’ve presented some 1,200 events, reaching well over 10,000 people. Gupta, who left The Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2018 to devote himself to Street Symphony, seeks to share widely his message that art is an offering of love, justice and connection that has the power to heal entire communities. To date, his TED Talk, “Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity,” has garnered millions of views. 

Under the banner of Arts for All, a campuswide initiative leveraging the combined power of the arts, technology and social justice to address the grand challenges of our time, Gupta will speak Thursday at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center as part of the 2021–22 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series. But before that, he talked to us about his journey to activism, learning from those he serves and the responsibility of the artist to work for justice. 

You’ve performed as an international recitalist, soloist, chamber musician and orchestral musician for over 20 years. But you also studied biology in college, and are now a nonprofit leader. How do you manage being so multidisciplinary? 

I feel like my role as an artist, as a citizen, as a nonprofit leader, as a spouse, all comes back to finding the truth. And the iterative process of applying oneself to a question to find the truth, and trying something and failing at that something, is both scientific and artistic and a deeply spiritual pursuit. I would love for us to throw away externally imposed certificates of expertise and rather think about multidisciplinary connections of gifts, because that places us into the framework of curiosity. Whether it’s an artistic pursuit, a scientific pursuit, a relationship, an act of civic engagement—I think we always need to stay curious. 

You started Street Symphony at the age of 22 while a musician in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. How did you do that? 

After I met Nathaniel I knew there was a possibility there could be other people like him out there, but I didn’t know how to reach them. So, I just started cold calling people. And there was a lot of failure. I called hospice workers who thought I was a prank caller. I called a lot of people who didn’t take me seriously. Eventually I started calling social workers working for Skid Row and they said “Yes, we’ll set aside our lunch hour and get an audience together and have a concert.” And my colleagues in the Philharmonic really rose to the occasion and they went with me. I didn’t start Street Symphony alone, I was never alone in this work. I had colleagues who gave their hearts, talents and gifts continuously with very little expectation of anything in return. And there was never an idea to create a nonprofit. Somebody handed me a check at a TED conference. I didn’t know what to do with the money so that’s when I thought to start a nonprofit at least to have the money in a bank account. 

How would you recommend people begin to make a difference in their own communities?  

The first thing you need to do is to take inventory of your gifts—what feels good and what you love. Basically, what makes you come alive? The second step is to find a way to apply that in the world—any way. If you like it when someone laughs, then make a daily practice of making somebody laugh. Find a way to give and receive what makes you come alive. Third, create a lab. Find your peers, find your tribe, who are willing to ask questions and apply them in the world in a similar way. Fourth, offer it to the world. Show up with curiosity and not with judgement, and serve. When we take these four steps, we’re identifying our values. If you start with your values—your why—the how and the what will come next. 

What do you feel like you and your fellow professional musicians have learned through this decade-long interchange of ideas? 

That there is more that is similar about us than is different. The conversation around service and engagement and outreach often has this pernicious myth around the redemption story, that we can save people. And I feel like that’s a perfectly fine place to start but it becomes hubristic if that’s our only motivation, because it maintains a separation of us and them. Even if we’re showing up out of charity it could still be in the mode of judgment and not in the mode of curiosity. It could still be in the mode of expertise and not experience. So, I feel like I have thrown every bit of dogma or rule or some judgments I’ve had about “those people” out. I’ve also learned from my colleagues in Skid Row that we don’t have to let the worst thing that’s happened to us define us. Forgiveness is choosing to take our identity from something more than the wound. We really do get to choose our lives. We really do get to choose our perception and the way we go about paying attention to the world. 

Do you believe artists have a unique responsibility to engage in social justice work? 

I see justice as an artistic practice. There is no end to justice. The same way there is no end to reconciliation and there is no end to love and there is no end to learning. These are all practices. And the truth is, what artists know more than anything is how to practice. We already have what we need to change the world. So, yes. I think we actually have an obligation to be engaged—to heal and inspire through our artistry but also to provoke change.

Gupta will be at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center October 21, 2021 from 5:30-7 p.m. Reserve tickets here. He will also sell and sign copies of his recent album “When the Violin” in the lobby after the event. This event is co-sponsored by the School of Music.


By ARHU Staff 

The College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) at the University of Maryland continues its successful Dean's Colloquium Series on Race, Equity and Justice, a colloquium and conversation series hosted by Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill. The series, which began in 2020, seeks to introduce audiences to faculty expertise on issues of systemic racism, inequality and social justice, and continues this year with a focus on the impacts of systemic racism on Asian, Jewish, Black, LGBTQ+, Arab and Muslim populations in the U.S. The events are free and take place virtually. 

The first colloquium of the 2021–22 academic year will be held Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, from 9–10 a.m. and features Associate Professor of History Christopher Bonner. Bonner’s talk “Willis Hodges's Shield: The Meanings of Black Voters” will focus on voting and racial justice through the lens of the 19th-century activist Willis Augustus Hodges. It will be followed by a conversation with the dean and a Q&A. 

Upcoming talks will focus on topics ranging from countering Islamophobia to fan fiction and social justice. A full list with links to register is available below.  

“I am so pleased that this successful series continues into a new academic year with even more opportunities for the community to learn from our incredible ARHU faculty members,” said Thornton Dill. “They are nationally-known thought leaders on issues of race, inequality and social justice and their expertise will undoubtedly promote dynamic conversations and spark new ideas for social change.” 

The series is part of a collegewide campaign launched in 2020 to address racism, inequality and justice in curriculum, scholarship, programming and community engagement. Among other actions, the Committee on Race, Equity and Justice, made up of faculty, staff and graduate students, serves to advise the dean on goals related to the eradication and dismantling of structural racism and on strategies for ensuring equity and social justice throughout the college, campus and community. 

Each event is free. These conversations are also ARHU TerrapinSTRONG events.

The full list of 2021–22 colloquia events is as follows: 

Oct. 27, Christopher Bonner, associate professor in the Department of History, whose talk is titled "Willis Hodges's Shield: The Meanings of Black Voters." Register here

Nov. 19, Janelle Wong, professor in the Department of American Studies, whose talk is titled “At the Crossroad: Black and Asian American Relations in U.S. Politics Today.” Register here.

Dec. 9, Robert Levine, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of English, whose talk is titled “The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.” Register here.

Feb. 17, Alexis Lothian, associate professor in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, whose talk is titled “Fan Fiction, Social Justice and the Politics of Fantasy.” Register here.

Mar. 16, Sahar Khamis, associate professor in the Department of Communication, whose talk is titled “Insights on Countering Islamophobia through Research, Activism and Media Outreach.” Register here.

Apr. 15, La Marr Jurelle Bruce, associate professor in the Department of American Studies, whose talk is titled “How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Toward a Mad Methodology.” Register here.

Apr. 27, Shay Hazkani, assistant professor in the Department of History and Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Program and Center for Jewish Studies, title forthcoming. Register here

To watch previous talks, visit: https://arhu.umd.edu/news/arhu-series-talks-centering-race-equity-and-justice

Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Gildenhorn Recital Hall
Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM

Esteemed violinist and social justice advocate, Vijay Gupta will present "Creating Justice through the Arts".

The deadline has been extended to Tuesday, August 24, 12 noon, for faculty to submit a “Notice of Intent to Submit” a proposal in response to the 2021 MPower Seed Grant Challenge.  The Notice of Intent is a preliminary registration step in a multi-step process.  Once submitted, PIs will receive a web link from me to submit proposals beginning September 8.

Funding of up to $3 million is earmarked for projects in six themes as defined in the attached RFP.  The Notice of Intent to Submit requirement is simple:  interested teams should send an email to Mpower@umaryland.edu. Within the body of the email, the following three pieces of information are requested: 1. Intended theme (see RFP for list); 2. Lead Principal Investigators’ names – one each from UMB and UMCP; and 3. Working title for the proposal.  More details can be found in the RFP.


The Joint Steering Council of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership – MPower – is pleased to announce a new funding opportunity for collaborators at both University of Maryland, Baltimore and University of Maryland, College Park. 

Here is the Request for Proposal document for this 2021 Seed Grant Challenge, which invites collaborative research proposals in six themes:

  1. Pandemic Readiness, Resilience and Mitigation
  2. Racial and Social Justice
  3. AI + Medicine
  4. Neuroscience and Aging
  5. Violence and Crime Reduction
  6. Cybersecurity, Homeland Security

Submissions will follow a multi-step process beginning with a Notice of Intent to Submit email due August 2, to be followed by Step 1 Proposals to be due in September 2021.

 Questions may be directed to Adrianne Arthur.


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