York artist-researchers awarded major grants

York University’s excellence in fine arts research and creation has been recognized with the awarding of two major research/creation grants under the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) new pilot program in the fine arts.

Professor Brenda Longfellow, Chair of York’s Department of Film & Video, and Nancy Nicol, professor of new media in the Department of Visual Arts, were both recently awarded three-year grants, each totalling approximately $200,000, in support of their cultural documentary projects.

Longfellow’s project, titled “Weather”, will involve research and creation of a feature-length documentary film and Web site exploring meteorological representation in Canada through the popular media of film, television and photography, and in culturally and regionally distinct traditions of observation and prediction.

Incorporating new digital aesthetics of structure and image processing, the project will investigate how the representation of weather has historically been shaped by state, military and commercial priorities.

Right: Brenda Longfellow

Longfellow’s project will also examine how weather has been appropriated as an object of technological surveillance and media spectacle, and re-imagined as an apocalyptic force in science fiction visions of the future.

Nicol’s project will involve research and production of a video documentary examining issues pertaining to gay and lesbian relationships and same-sex marriage in Canada.

Left: Nancy Nicol

Titled “Do As I Say”, the project is a feature length documentary and oral history project that examines the issue of relationship recognition for lesbians and gay men in Canada with some material from the US. The period under investigation is from the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada to the current debate on gay marriage. The production will be shot in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes as well as some material to be shot in New York State, Massachusetts and California – covering local events and interviews with activists, legal experts, key litigants and community organizations. The work will examine the ways in which LGBT organizations developed the demand for relationship(s) recognition and built a movement for legislative change. This will include examining the framing of this as an issue by LGBT organizations, tracing its historical development and examining the relationship between public policy changes and LGBT demands. The documentary will also examine the broader social debate and opposition to relationship recognition and gay marriage.

In all, York artist-researchers submitted 16 applications for the new pilot program. Of these, 12 projects were “4A-listed” by SSHRC. The term “4A-listed” means the projects were recommended for support because of their research excellence but a lack of funds in the pilot program meant that they could not be awarded.

“Our success in this pilot program is clearly a testament to the excellence of research and creation by York’s artist-researchers”, said York Vice-President Research & Iinnovation Stan Shapson. “It also shows the need for increased funding to SSHRC to allow this pilot program to become a permanent program and to ensure that in future all of the projects recommended by the adjudication committee will be able to be funded.”

With the awarding of these two grants, York ranked third across Canada for the most projects awarded and second in the total amount of dollars awarded. “This certainly bodes well for the future of fine arts research and creation at York,” said Shapson.

More about the SSHRC Research/Creation Grants in Fine Arts:

Responding to the challenges faced by artist-researchers at Canadian postsecondary institutions, the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada established a sub-committee on the creative and fine arts, which concluded that SSHRC should put into place a pilot program to provide support for the research of artist-researchers. In March 2003, SSHRC Council approved the launch of the Research/Creation Grants in Fine Arts pilot program.

The broad purpose of the five-year pilot program is to support and develop excellence in research/creation in artistic disciplines. An “artistic discipline” is defined by SSHRC as one or more of the following categories: architecture, design, creative writing, visual arts, performing arts, film, video, performance art, interdisciplinary arts, media and electronic arts, and new artistic practices. “Research/creation” refers to any research activity or approach to research that fosters the creation of literary or artistic works of any kind, where both the research and the works it fosters meet standards of excellence and are suitable for publication, public performance or viewing.

Grants under the pilot program are available for projects of up to three years with a maximum award of $100,000 per year, but totalling not more than $250,000 in a three-year period.

Applications are peer-reviewed and the adjudication committee examines proposals on the basis of specific evaluation criteria pertaining to the applicants’ records of research/creation achievement and the excellence of the proposed project itself.