Our Work

Designer's Eye by Charlee Walker, BFA Exhibition 2018

We employ technology to make new art forms and improve lives. We uncover histories that reshape our perspectives. We explore gender and culture. We rely on revered teachers. We depend on fresh voices to reimagine familiar stories.

We are FAA.

At the 2017 Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival, Cynthia Oliver premiered her piece Virago-Man Dem, an exploration of masculinity—especially in the Caribbean and among African Americans—and depicted from her perspective as a woman. The new dance extends her navigations of the borderlines of gender, race, nation, socioeconomic class, and political ideologies through interlinked movement and text.

When the Egyptian queen-sultan Shajar al-Durr, known as Tree of Pearls during her rule, added tombs to her husband's madrasa (a school), she connected architecture with humanity and enlarged the concept of patronage in the Islamic world. D. Fairchild Ruggles, who has dual appointments in the Illinois School of Architecture and the Department of Landscape Architecture, will use a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study Shajar al-Durr's accomplishments and how her actions may be more representative of women's influence during the 13th century than previously believed.

In a rarity for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, the singer in the title role also served as the director for its February 2018 production. Baritone and opera icon Nathan Gunn, who also oversees Lyric Theatre with Julie Gunn, made his directorial debut with Don Giovanni. Set in New York among ruthless capitalists with high-tech weapons, this version recast Don Giovanni as a corporate raider, imparted more ambiguity and subtlety into the plot, and gave Anna, Elvira, and Zerlina greater agency.

Don Giovanni, Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, February 2018, Photo by Darrell Hoemann

Loucine Brigitte Topouzian as Zerlina and Nathan Gunn as Don Giovanni. Photo by Darrell Hoemann.

Anyone who's left a comment on a Strava activity or created a segment already is familiar with how technology can enhance a bike trip. Thanks to Jesus Barajas, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Californians may be able to make everyone's trip a little safer by crowdsourcing pedestrian and cyclist data. Using an app under development by a team including Barajas, individuals across the state could provide transportation agencies with information on traffic volume, accidents, and safety issues that planners would assess along with other information in the creation of new rules of the road or better infrastructure.

Fostering new work is a primary component of Krannert Center's mission, and during each season artists incubate pieces in the production and rehearsal spaces, receive creative and financial support, hone their vision and practice, and share performances with diverse performers and audiences. Many of these partnerships focus on multidisciplinary productions, multimedia presentations, specifically invented technologies, or novel collaborations. Rules of the Game from 2017 was inspired by the absurdist play of the same name by Luigi Pirandello and features eight dancers in choreography by Jonah Bokaer placed within surreal projections and settings designed by Daniel Arsham. The score was written by Pharrell Williams and arranged by David Campbell for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Tiny houses—one of the biggest stars of TV design shows—are increasingly playing a notable role in communities across the country. Their compact features and realistic scale make them a practical choice for greater accessibility, sustainability, and affordability. Illinois Architecture's Christina Bollo designed the social-focused ReachOUT House with Lyndsey Deaton for Emerald Village in Eugene, Oregon. Each of the individual structures in this housing cooperative offers security and privacy, and through their rent the residents earn an ownership stake.

ReachOUT Designed by Christina Bollo and Lyndsey Deaton

Conceived by Lisa Mercer of the School of Art and Design, Operation Compass is a cellphone app to anonymously report suspected human trafficking. Truck stops are a prime location for trafficking but rarely were drivers reporting cases—whether out of fear for their safety or uncertainty about whether they observed forced or voluntary behavior. The app allows anyone to submit detailed reports without directly contacting authorities or revealing their identities. Mercer's nonprofit organization, also called Operation Compass, delivers the tips to law enforcement officials, who then have concrete leads to investigate.

As a founder of the cultural study of Japan and leader of the original Japan House on campus, Shozo Sato has brought the traditional arts of flower arranging, the tea ceremony, black ink painting, and calligraphy to thousands of beginners and advanced practitioners. When instructing students, he imparts the teachings of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, which is a practice of developing insight and self-realization. By paying attention to all the senses and taking pains to perfect all details while moving a brush, serving tea, or organizing stems in a vase, an individual can learn to apply that mindset to other human activities.

Shozo Sato Teaches Calligraphy at Japan House

Krannert Art Museum has engaged a detective—of the art historian variety—to help uncover the stories behind paintings in its collection with unknown whereabouts during World War II, when many works were unlawfully or forcibly acquired by the Nazis. PhD candidate Nancy Karrels has participated in a roundtable at the Getty Research Institute and workshops on German provenance that have led to archival materials, catalogs and correspondence that have restricted access, connections with other experts and government officials, and a network of investigators. Some of her evidence for six paintings in KAM's collection was featured in the exhibition Provenance: A Forensic History of Art.

Distinguished alumni affiliated with FAA continue to be lauded for their landmark contributions to our planet. The university recognized architect Max Abramovitz—who graduated in 1929 from the School of Architecture and returned to campus to design Krannert Center and the State Farm Center (formerly Assembly Hall)—and artist Lorado Taft—who received two degrees in art from Illinois Industrial University (later renamed the University of Illinois) and created one of the most recognizable sights in Champaign-Urbana: the Alma Mater statue—in a sesquicentennial video.