Big Grant = Big Ideas

The dance program at Middlebury College in Vermont has been awarded a $310,000 Mellon grant—one of the largest ever given to an arts program at Middlebury—in order to bring interdisciplinary art projects to fruition. Movement Matters, the program funded by the grant, will consist of three phases over several years: First, Middlebury’s dance program will seek out both on-campus professors and off-campus emerging dance artists who are interested in collaborating to create interdisciplinary work. “We want to be an incubator for emerging artists to combine their creative process with a scholarly foundation,” says dance program chair Christal Brown. “Think of Urban Bush Women and the community engagement work they do within an academic structure. We’re trying to do that, but for an artist who isn’t at that stature yet.”

Middlebury will select three choreographers to begin to develop their projects on campus. One of those three artists will be chosen as the Mellon Interdisciplinary Choreographer for a two-year residency with the dance program, complete with a production budget to fully realize his or her project. Such a lengthy application process is necessary, says Brown: “We’re not trying to find the best artist, but the artist we feel we can build the most reciprocal relationship with.” She heralds this project as perfect for the school’s nonconservatory environment—the focus will be on the creative process and creating dance within a context. “Interdisciplinary art-making and the core of what liberal arts education is about are very similar, in that you pull pieces together from various places to make a whole statement,” says Brown. “Once you understand the essence of how things work together, our knowledge bases become tools for change.”

Photo by Brett Simison

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