School of Art

On April 7, the Arizona Board of Regents voted to confirm the appointment of School of Art Professor Sama Alshaibi as a Regents Professor.

Alshaibi, a photographic and video artist and 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, has served as co-chair of the School of Art’s Photography, Video and Imaging program since 2013. The program was ranked third in the nation for MFA photography programs by the U.S. News & World Report.

The title of Regents Professor is reserved for full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction. Regents Professor appointments are limited to no more than 3% of the total number of the university’s tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

“I stand on the shoulders of so many. I never imagined my career could be where it is at now,” she said.

>> ABOR votes to confirm five new Regents Professors
>> Alshaibi awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship
>> Sama Alshaibi’s artist website

Sama Alshaibi during the shooting of the first University of Arizona “Wonder Makes Me” campaign video. Student Tamrin Ingrahm to the left.

ABOR confirms Sama Alshaibi as Regents Professor

“I’m not just an immigrant, but someone that didn’t have citizenship growing up. Education and the arts gave me a road to find my voice, and the University of Arizona is how I found my footing and path. I’m so proud to tell anyone I meet that I love my city, my job, my colleagues, and students. To receive this distinction means I have honored the university and community that gave me so much.”

Portrait of artist Sama Alshaibi
Portrait of artist Sama Alshaibi by Zakiriya Gladney.

“Sama’s long list of professional accomplishments make her most deserving of this award,” said School Director Colin Blakely. “What is even more impressive is that even as she has garnered international acclaim, she has remained intensely dedicated to the local communities around her. Through her mentorship and constant commitment, she is always available and willing to roll up her sleeves. She has been an immensely positive force for change in the School of Art. I am excited to see her engage as an ambassador for the arts at the university level through her participation in this distinguished group. 

Her nomination letter notes her unique journey and perspective.

“The intellectual merit and impact of Alshaibi’s scholarship is significant. An immigrant, she has used her artwork to create space, both for herself and others, where little had existed previously. Her projects forcefully engage with the visual legacy of colonialism and subsequent cultural erasure historically and in the present. Further, through a series of deeply provocative choices around process and its relation to her content, she explores in innovative and compelling ways the extent to which her chosen medium of photography is implicated in that legacy. Projects interrogate western depictions of the Middle East and Islam while also exploring her personal history and identity as a woman refugee.”

Looking forward, Alshaibi intends to continue this path.

“I’m excited to represent the PVI program, the School of Art, the College of Fine Arts and Arizona Arts. As a woman of color, this has been my mission since I joined University of Arizona. As an artist, I’m doing what I know to do. Being an Iraqi Palestinian American affords me a space to speak to our intertwined history and contemporary peril. I will continue to use my platform to consider those of us on the margins, and how the human dimension needs to be centered.”

Alshaibi joined the School of Art in 2006. In her field, she is among the most sought-after presenters, having given nearly 100 presentations, and among the most frequently cited visual artists, with more than 200 citations. 

Alshaibi’s work explores the notion of aftermath – the fragmentation and dispossession that violates the individual and a community following the destruction of their social, natural, and built environment. In her photographs and videos, Alshaibi often uses her own body as both subject and medium.

Alshaibi’s professional accolades include an extensive list of fellowships, exhibitions, publications, and awards at both the national and international level. Recognition for her work includes an exhibition at the 2014 Venice Biennale, a monograph published by Aperture, a 2014 Fulbright Research Fellowship to the West Bank city of Ramallah, a 2019 Artpace residency and a 2021 Guggenheim fellowship. Her work has also been featured in recent exhibitions such as “Women in the Face of History and Migration(s)” and “Meaning in Art.”

Sama Alshaibi and CFA Dean Andy Schulz at Crystal Bridges Museum.