IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute: Ally to the Arts, Facilitators of Conversation

In a relatively small but modern office in the northwest corner of the fourth floor of IUPUI’s University Library resides the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute. The IAHI serves many functions at our university, offering grant programs to faculty members and coordinating many on-campus events each and every semester since its inception in 2012.

IAHI’s logo, courtesy of their Facebook page

The IAHI was formed as a branch of the IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research in collaboration with the School of Liberal Arts, the Herron School of Art and Design, the IUPUI University Library, the School of Informatics and Computing, the School of Engineering and Technology, the School of Science, and the School of Medicine.

The IAHI itself is made up of several IUPUI professors and staff members, and has been headed by professor Jason M. Kelly since day one. Kelly’s knowledge and passion for the arts has been made evident in the success of the IAHI in its five year existence.

“Being the founding director of an institute means my job has been to kind of define what the institute is going to become.”

Professor Kelly may be the founding director of a fairly new program here at IUPUI, but he has been an instructor at IUPUI in the history department since 2004. This was his first job after completing his graduate degree program in 18th century British history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His role at the institute requires him to wear many different hats, as the IAHI provides several different services at IUPUI.

Arts and Humanities’ office in University Library, courtesy of their Facebook page.

One of those services is a substantial five category grant program for IUPUI faculty who work in arts or humanities. The grants available range from $500 to $30,000 and are intended to support academic research and creative activity. In the past, the IAHI has funded documentaries, art installations, and research endeavors carried out by IUPUI faculty members.  


The institute also serves a significant role to both the IUPUI arts and humanities community as well as the Indianapolis metropolitan area arts and humanities community, acting as a liaison between the two. The IAHI proudly fosters on-going relationships between the two and is constantly looking for new ventures to advance arts and humanities in both our city and our university.

As if providing funding to important research and creative projects and connecting IUPUI to our surrounding environment were not enough, the IAHI also hosts and sponsors several events on and off of campus that seek to enlighten both students and the central Indiana community at large. Some of the events that the institute has presented include musical ensembles, film presentations, and race relation convocations. One of the premier events put on by the IAHI is their Entanglements Series.

“We have a series here called Entanglements that we do,” Kelly explained, “Which puts a scientist in the same room with a humanist or an artist and we ask them a question that transcends any discipline”

Some examples of the topics discussed at previous events include: “How Do We (re)Make Our Planet?,” “Humanity at the Crossroads,” and “What is the Future of Farming?” These are important subjects that lack definite answers, but will need to be addressed in the near future, if they are not being addressed already, in order for humanity to continue in perpetuity.

One of the editions of the Entanglement Series in 2014 asked the age-old question, “What Makes Us Human?” For this installment of the beloved debate forum, The IAHI pitted biologist E. O. Wilson against science fiction literature expert and cyborg theory specialist Katherine Hayles in front of a crowd of about 250 people in Clowes Auditorium at the Indianapolis Central Library.

Dr. E.O. Wilson is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. He has also won two Pulitzer prizes in general non-fiction, his first coming in 1979 for his book entitled, “On Human Nature,” a peer-reviewed biological thesis about the very question being asked at the Entanglements event. Dr. Katherine Hayles is Professor of Literature at Duke University and considered to be a leading social and literary critic with expertise in cyborg anthropology and several other forms of post-modern humanist ideologies. Professor Kelly recounted the event with great enthusiasm, as it is one of his favorite events put on by the institute.

“We had a moderator on stage with them, and they were going back and forth on a topic. The moderator stopped the conversation in order to get to the next question and the audience was so enraptured in this high-level esoteric conversation about human nature that they all gasped collectively when the conversation got brought to an end, and you rarely see that in lectures.”

It is obvious that the events put on by the IAHI are deeply rooted in the interest of both entertaining and educating the general public. This is often the design of many educational endeavors, but rarely does a program achieve this dual success.

When asked about the educational benefits of the Entanglements Series, IUPUI graduate student in the School of Education Claire Osecki had insight as to why this type of event is so well received and beneficial to the public.

“Well, I feel like today, especially, there is a huge push for science and math while the arts are dying out and being pushed out of schools,” explained Osecki, “The Entanglements Series shows that there is value in both, and they balance each other out, and make each other better.”

This interpretation underlines the central message and function of the IAHI. The institute is a collaboration of many schools with different specialties and priorities under the umbrella of post-secondary education, but they have a commonality amongst them. All of the schools that make up the institute want the best for IUPUI students, and the IAHI has made it clear that the best often comes from open-minded conversation and collaboration.

In its five years of operation, the IAHI has made it clear that they are dedicated to the success of both the IUPUI community and our surrounding communities, both researchers and artists. Kelly assured that there was much more to come and many interesting events being planned for the next year.

While he was unable to give specific details as to what the major events of 2018 would be, professor Kelly explained that they would be bringing in three artists who will be creating new public art works on campus. The Entanglements Series will resume in the fall of 2018, and even though the details are still being worked out, Dr. Kelly promises, “It’s going to be big.”

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