a2ru Receives Second Round of Funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

  • July 15, 2015
  • By a2ru      
The newly funded three-year initiative will allow a2ru to disseminate best practices in the integration of the arts at research universities.


The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) and the University of Michigan’s ArtsEngine program received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant, effective this July, will fund the SPARC Project: Supporting Practice in Arts, Research and Curricula, a three-year initiative that will allow a2ru to disseminate best practices in the integration of arts practice at research universities.

This is the second round of Mellon funding received by The University of Michigan on behalf of a2ru. Initial funding was awarded in 2012, supporting the creation of the first comprehensive guide to best practices in the integration of the arts in U.S. research universities. The Mellon Best Practices Guide will be published in fall 2015 and will identify models, obstacles, implementation strategies, costs, and impact on students and faculty, as well as on research, practice, and teaching in other knowledge areas. The Mellon Best Practices Guide will be available for download to the public. This second round of funding represents a total of $1.3 million from the Mellon Foundation towards ArtsEngine’s/a2ru’s efforts to expand research in support of the arts in higher education.

Dr. Laurie Baefsky, executive director of a2ru, sees the additional round of funding as an opportunity to apply current findings for the purpose of future engagement. “This research endeavor is what initially fueled the creation of a2ru. By applying its findings, a2ru now has the potential to sustain and more thoroughly incorporate arts practices into higher education, empower and broaden students’ curricular and co-curricular experiences, and maximize the creative production of faculty. This is what a2ru’s 32 national partners and many of our U.S. research universities want and require on their campuses,” says Baefsky.

Dr. Barbara O. Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University and chair of the a2ru Executive Committee, emphasizes the importance of a2ru’s commitment to the role of the arts in supporting 21st century learning. “a2ru is unique in its commitment to catalyze national efforts supporting others to realize the arts are crucial to developing new fields of research, play an essential role in our nations cultural and economic development, and foster competencies in creativity, innovation, and communication that are essential to the future of our world,” says Korner.

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) will house the transcribed archives of Mellon Phase I interviews for further research, as well as help build a web-based platform so these materials can be more easily searched and used. a2ru will hire a new Research Director and a Mellon Post-Doc Research Fellow to support continued arts-integrated research in support of the SPARC Project. Job descriptions for these positions will be posted to The University of Michigan’s website.

The University of Michigan has housed a2ru since its inception. The organization grew out of a 2011 “Michigan Meeting” and shares offices with ArtsEngine, an arts-integrated interdisciplinary unit located at the University of Michigan’s North Campus. Deans Christopher Kendall (School of Music, Theatre, and Dance), David C. Munson, Jr. (College of Engineering), Guna Nadarajan (Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design), and Monica Ponce de Leon (Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning), collectively issued this statement regarding The SPARC Project, “Four years after the 2011 “Michigan Meeting” we are at the threshold of empowering universities engaged in arts integrated interdisciplinary work with knowledge to encourage and better amplify this work on their campuses. a2ru is positioned to become a leader in galvanizing efforts to bring the arts directly into the center of work being done on our campuses.”

Mariët Westermann, Vice President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, expects an echo effect as a2ru moves towards the application of findings from its initial research, “We look forward to following the impact that the release of a2ru’s research will have on greater integration of the arts into the academic programs of research universities,” Westermann says. Dr. Laurie Baefsky agrees, “We are moving into a new future in higher education and our direction is 100% arts forward,” says Baefsky.