Artists granted newly created awards

June 10, 2004, vol. 30, no. 4
By Carol Thorbes

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Martin Gotfrit (front), director of the school for the contempoary arts and Henry Daniel, assistant professor of dance and interdisciplinary studies, use emerging technology in their artistic research.

Three Simon Fraser University professors are among the first university-based artists in Canada to receive federal grants historically reserved for humanists, social scientists and scientists in medical or natural science research.

Martin Gotfrit, director of the school for the contemporary arts and Kenneth Newby, an assistant professor at the school of interactive arts and technology are co-recipients of a research/creation grant.

Another grant went to Ron Wakkary, an associate professor at the school of interactive arts and technology.

The grants are awarded under the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) newly created fine arts program. The five-year pilot project aims to link the humanities more closely with arts communities. The inaugural program was able to fund only 34 of 200 applicants.

Henry Daniel, assistant professor of dance and interdisciplinary studies, was one of several applicants told their projects were worthy of funding, but the money is not available.

“The fine arts pilot program was created primarily to meet the needs of university-based artists who have for some time had trouble securing funds from either SSHRC or Canada Council,” says Craig McNaughton, a senior SSHRC program officer. “Their work will prove quite valuable in the wider academic community, as well as to society at large.”

“Until now, professors who are artists have had to cross-dress to secure major federal funding,” says Gotfrit, the recipient of a $167,000 grant over three years. “We've had to basically put on a white lab coat and couch our research in conventional terms that imply scientific or industrial applications.”

“Ironically, the labs for which artists need funding rival those traditionally considered the domain of pure and social scientists,” says Daniel.
The dancer/choreographer has been awarded a $40,000 research development initiatives (RDI) grant under another SSHRC program.
Daniel is one of four university-based artists nationally awarded one of 22 RDIs, which support the evolution of new disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences.

“We use some of the same technologies in dance as those used by psychologists and kinesiologists to study the workings of the human brain or body. The film industry uses such technology to create box office hits like The Matrix and Lord of the Rings,” explains Daniel.

Gotfrit's fine arts grant will help finance his adaptation of emerging technologies, and existing hardware and software to better serve artists' creation of sound and film.

Gotfrit, Newby and collaborator Aleksandra Dulic, a media artist and experimental film director at the Surrey campus, envision SFU becoming a major provider of open-ended, Internet-accessible compositional tools for artists.

Wakkary is using his $157,500 fine arts award over three years to further his development of interactive technology in museum exhibits.

Daniel is using his RDI grant to explore the impact of new media and technologies on the performing arts and their inter-relationship with other disciplines.

He hopes to launch a world-class centre for research in dance, technology and performing studies at SFU.

Daniel's and Gotfrit's grants will also fund graduate research, and workshops aimed at fostering the creation of international networks of artists pursuing similar research.

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