College of Fine Arts, School of Art, School of Music, School of Theatre, Film & Television

The University of Arizona Office for Research, Innovation and Impact (RII) has awarded its first round of production seed grants to four faculty members in the College of Fine Arts.

In 2020, RII launched dedicated seed grants to aid in the production of original works and scholarship. This funding may be used for costs associated with producing a product, performance or installation, such as time in a recording studio, film and videography expenses, installation expenses, travel and other expenses related to the production of innovative scholarship. 

“The arts, humanities, and social sciences provide excellent examples of research with societal impacts, offering new ways of understanding and making meaning of the world,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. “Thanks to the insightful work of RII staff who recognized the need for available funding sources specifically to support production costs for creative pursuits, we are already benefitting from the enriching and enlightening impacts of these four projects.”

All of the funded projects were from the College of Fine Arts.

  • Kevin Black, Professor of Practice, School of Theatre, Film & Television
  • Sara Fraker, Associate Professor, Fred Fox School of Music
  • Yuri Makino, Associate Professor, School of Theatre, Film & Television
  • David Taylor, Professor, School of Art

“This new RII seed grant is a significant development in bringing arts research into the larger research ecosystem of the University,” said Ellen McMahon, associate dean for research. “These projects – all interdisciplinary with natural sciences, social sciences and/or humanities – provide a set of case studies that will help build a common understanding of the diverse nature of research in the arts and its value within the university, community and society.” 

Fine Revolution, an immersive, multi-media reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, produced, written and directed by Kevin Black.

Kevin Black
Professor of Practice
School of Theatre, Film & Television

Project Description // Fine Revolution is an electrifying mix of immersive and cinematic theatre that reimagines Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a modern, Fourth Industrial Revolution tragedy. Set in a fictional Denmark dominated by artificial intelligence systems, the play questions our ever-deepening reliance on technology and the Internet. In the vein of the long-running Sleep No More and Broadway’s recent NetworkFine Revolution is an embodied experience — the audience is in the midst of the action, traveling with the actors through a light-and-sound-scaped theatre space as the story unfolds.  The project team is currently filming the cinematic elements, in preparation for the full, post-pandemic live production.

Fine Revolution received funding from the RII Production Grant ($14,980) and the Office of the Dean, College of Fine Arts ($10,000, 2018). 

Research Statement // My research explores linking media, specifically film and theatre, to deliver meaningful stories and powerful sensory experiences for the audience. Identifying the necessary cross-disciplinary techniques to make this a viable storytelling form, my research outcomes will then be applied to the professional training of theatre, film, and live event practitioners. Thematically, I am interested in how our human-to-machine relationships affect our human-to-human relationships. There is growing understanding of the link between depression and anxiety with the use of technology and social media. In updating one of the most legendary stories of all time, Fine Revolution asks us to examine how internet and tech culture both connects and isolates, unites and polarizes.

From the cover of Sara Fraker’s 2019 debut solo album, BOTANICA.

Sara Fraker
Associate Professor
Fred Fox School of Music

Project Description // Performing Dendrochronology: Tree-Ring Music for Three Woodwinds involves the creation of a music/visual art piece for live performance and digital media, inspired by methods and data sets from the Laboratory for Tree-Ring Research (LTRR). The work will explore themes of forest ecology, deep time and climate crisis. Inherent within the symbolism of woodwind music written for trees is a reciprocity between taker and maker, between voice and listener, between plant body and human body. Our collaborative group includes Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth, plant population biologist Margaret Evans (LTRR), Kelly Leslie (School of Art), Jackie Glazier and Marissa Olegario (Fred Fox School of Music).

Performing Dendrochronology received funding from the RII Production Grant ($750), the CFA Small Grants ($3,000), and the Fred Fox School of Music ($500).

Research Statement // My research interests include intersections of music and ecology, the commissioning of new works, and imaginative chamber music programming. I collaborated with plant ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer and composer Asha Srinivasan to commission Braiding for oboe, electronics and natural sounds, which was recently featured on CBC Radio and OCAD University’s Onsite Gallery. I’m currently working on a world premiere recording for New World Records featuring the woodwind music of American ultra-modernist Johanna Beyer. I’ve presented recitals and masterclasses across the United States and in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and the Tohono O’odham Nation. 

A woman discussing her concerns around the Affordable Care Act in the documentary, America’s Health.

Yuri Makino
Associate Professor
School of Theatre, Film & Television

Project Description // America’s Health is a documentary which aims to raise awareness around the healthcare concerns of Americans and to humanize their struggles.  Is healthcare a right or privilege? In the middle of a global pandemic Americans engage in this question and share their stories, hopes and frustrations about our patchwork healthcare system that serves some and fails others. But rather than divide us, healthcare may well be the place we find common ground to build a stronger, healthier and more equitable nation. America’s Health opens up the conversation on healthcare access and empowers viewers with knowledge to make healthcare choices that benefit their well-being.

America’s Health received funding from the RII Production Grant ($14,989) and the CFA Small Grants ($4,000). Collaborators include Dr. Paul Gordon, professor, College of Medicine – Tucson; and filmmaker Christine Ryan Harland, the film’s co-director.

Research Statement // Dr. Paul Gordon approached me about making a film about his bicycle tour across part of the U.S. interviewing Americans for their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act. I signed on because I felt I could help put a human face on an often dry and confusing topic. Little did we know that the project would be starting during a pandemic and healthcare would be pushed to center stage in everyone’s lives. Making documentaries is an adventure that usually requires you to take a deep dive into a different world and come in contact with people you otherwise might not meet. In my work I hope to show a different perspective and deepen viewer’s understanding and empathy for the people in the film.

East Hidalgo Detention Center, La Villa Texas from COMPLEX by David Taylor

David Taylor


School of Art 

Project Description // COMPLEX draws upon various representational modes to examine and contextualize immigrant incarceration, revealing both its pervasiveness in the landscape and its societal ramifications. Our built environment can be understood as an expression of our collective societal imperatives and values. From that vantage point, the incarceration of migrants in for-profit detention facilities is a physical manifestation of our contemporary outlook on immigrants and immigration.

COMPLEX has received funding and support from the Arizona Commission on the Arts; Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project; University of Arizona College of Fine Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Joshua Tree Center for Photographic Arts.  

Research Statement // My artwork examines place, territory, history and politics. My projects reveal how borders can function not only as spatial demarcations, but also as an amplifying device particularly attuned to changing geo-political, environmental and social conditions. With a focus on fieldwork, I’m interested in how research can be informed through direct engagement and experience. My most recent work frames for-profit immigrant detention as a vast industrial landscape of incarceration which has commodified human displacement.