KU News: Documentary explores how mothers bring whole selves to art

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Documentary explores how mothers bring whole selves to art
LAWRENCE – At one time or another, nearly every employed person feels pressed by the push and pull of personal and work life. For mothers who are the primary caregivers of young children, it’s even more extreme. Maria Velasco, professor of visual art at the University of Kansas, explores this tension in a new documentary film, “All of Me: Artists + Mothers.” The next showing will begin Oct. 7 in the Global Indie Film Fest based in Glasgow, Scotland.

Project on the History of Black Writing lecture series will further explore Zora Neale Hurston’s life, legacy
LAWRENCE — An upcoming series of virtual lectures will further explore the scholarship around celebrated Black literary figure Zora Neale Hurston, author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” whose life and works were the subject of a National Endowment for the Humanities Virtual Summer Institute hosted by The Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The series will include editor and journalist Valerie Boyd, New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones and University of Memphis philosophy professor Lindsey Stewart.

School of Engineering’s Tiberti Lecture set for Oct. 14
LAWRENCE — A past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers will give this year’s J.A. Tiberti Family Lecture at the University of Kansas School of Engineering. Robin Kemper, a risk engineer with Zurich North America in New Jersey, will speak at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 on the Lawrence campus. Her lecture will encourage students to step outside their comfort zones to maximize their careers.

KU lands grant to co-train specialists who both aid children, yet rarely work together
LAWRENCE — Students with intellectual and developmental disability and complex communication needs are often supported by both special education teachers and speech-language pathologists. However, these professionals are rarely trained in both areas, and they rarely have the opportunity to learn and work together during their preparation programs. A new $1.25 million grant from the Office of Special Education Programs will support work at the University of Kansas to train these specialists while they are still in graduate school so that they can help students succeed.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Documentary explores how mothers bring whole selves to art
LAWRENCE – At one time or another, nearly every employed person feels pressed by the push and pull of personal and work life. For mothers who are the primary caregivers of young children, it’s even more extreme.
Maria Velasco, professor of visual art at the University of Kansas, explores this tension in a new documentary film, “All of Me: Artists + Mothers.”
Her work premiered in 2020 and has been making the virtual film festival circuit, with its next showing set to begin Oct. 7 in the Global Indie Film Fest based in Glasgow, Scotland. It has also been accepted into the 22nd season of the World Film Carnival-Singapore.

Velasco, who is a multidisciplinary artist, has made some animated films before, but “All of Me” is her first documentary. It fits right in, though, with her community-based approach to working.

“The film came from my experience as an artist, as a mother, and a feeling that I’ve been in that closet before,” Velasco said. “That is because parenting is invisible in the culture, in the arts. In academia, too — it’s like we’re not supposed to have kids. And if we do, you sweep them under the rug somewhere or someone else takes care of them, like in the 1940s — the wife at home. The mentality is the same.”

Thus, Velasco said, when one becomes a parent, “it’s like you just drop off the Earth. It’s very hard to attend artist residencies, because most of them don’t let you bring family or children. How are we to advance our career if the professional opportunities aren’t there for us? But there are a handful of them, and they are very competitive.”

As most people do become parents, artists will simply have to navigate that, Velasco said.

“While it’s difficult to recalibrate, it’s not impossible,” she said. “I became a part of the artist-parent community through online resources and began to feel that I was not alone.”

Velasco said she had been “yearning to make this work visible” for some time but feared not being taken seriously.

“At some point,” she said, after earning full professorship, “it came to a head. I said to myself, I have to embrace this.”

Her then-9-year-old son’s anguished (“screaming”) reaction to news that Velasco planned to leave town for a two-month residency in 2018 in Spain sealed the deal, the single mother said.

“I said next time I go anywhere, you’re coming with me,” Velasco recalled. “I don’t want to have to do this again – to choose between you and my work, and then I had to reconcile those two things.”

Velasco applied for and received a residency at family-friendly Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado, in the summer of 2019, this time bringing along her son, Alex. They hung out in the mountains and created a role-playing card game based on those experiences and their drawings.

In the meantime, Velasco had emailed some of her fellow resident artists and asked if they would participate in a filmed discussion of the conflicts they felt between their lives as mothers and their jobs as artists. With a grant to fund the services of graduate student Bryce Heesacker as cameraman and co-editor, Velasco turned those interviews into “All of Me.”

At first, Velasco said, “I just wanted to capture the experience. I wasn’t even thinking about what should we do with it.” But she concluded she must make it into a film “because we need the visibility, and we need to be present in the world as professionals who have kids.”

Since then, the film has screened in more than 10 film festivals, winning Best Female Representation Award at WIFTA (Women in Film and Television Atlanta), Honorable Mention at Screen Power Film Festival (London) and Semi-Finalist at Dumbo Film Festival (New York) and Boden International Film Festival (Sweden).

The 15-minute film has not been shown locally, but Velasco is looking forward to the summer of 2022, when she will curate an exhibition at the Lawrence Art Center dealing with art and parenting. Perhaps, she said, “All of Me” will be part of a program of films on the topic then.
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Contact: Christopher Peace, Project on the History of Black Writing, [email protected]
Project on the History of Black Writing lecture series will further explore Zora Neale Hurston’s life, legacy

LAWRENCE — An upcoming series of webinars will further explore the scholarship around celebrated Black literary figure Zora Neale Hurston, author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” whose life and works were the subject of a National Endowment for the Humanities Virtual Summer Institute hosted by The Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas.

Scholars of Hurston, including editor and journalist Valerie Boyd, New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones and University of Memphis philosophy professor Lindsey Stewart, will discuss the Harlem Renaissance writer’s life and legacy in the webinar series, which opens Oct. 1. The lectures follow up on the summer institute, “Hurston on the Horizon: Past, Present and Future.”

“The webinars allow us to continue our conversations from the summer with a broader audience, and they invite everyone into a discussion of Hurston along with leading scholars and writers,” said Ayesha Hardison, director of The Project on the History of Black Writing and associate professor of English and women, gender & sexuality studies at KU.

“Hurston championed making her work accessible to the public, and the webinars share that commitment by promoting the importance of her life and the continued relevance of her work to diverse audiences.”

The virtual events are free and open to the public. More about the “Hurston on the Horizon: Past, Present and Future” is available on the institute website.

The full schedule of webinar events:
“The Afterlife of a Biography”
Noon-1:30 p.m. Oct. 1

Valerie Boyd is a professor of journalism and narrative nonfiction writing and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Georgia. She also is the senior consulting editor at The Bitter Southerner magazine. Boyd is author of the critically acclaimed “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston,” which was hailed by Alice Walker as “magnificent” and “extraordinary” and by The Boston Globe as “elegant and exhilarating.” Formerly arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boyd has written for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, The Oxford American, Essence and Atlanta Magazine. She is editing the upcoming anthology “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Writers on the Pandemic, Shutdown and Uprising of 2020.” Register here for the webinar.

“The Legacy of Zora Neale Hurston and Southern Women Writers”
Noon-1:30 p.m. Nov. 5
Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, most recently The New York Times Best Seller “An American Marriage.” Published in 2018, “An American Marriage” is an Oprah’s Book Club Selection and also appeared on Barack Obama’s summer reading list as well as his year-end roundup. The novel was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), Aspen Words Prize and an NAACP Image Award. Jones, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, also has been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. She is an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University. Register here for the webinar.

“‘The Politics of Black Joy’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy”
Noon-1:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Lindsey Stewart is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis. Her research focuses on developing Black feminist conceptions of agency at the intersection of sexuality, region, religion and class. Her book “The Politics of Black Joy: Zora Neale Hurston and Neo-Abolitionism,” just published by Northwestern University Press, is a study of Hurston’s racial politics that resists reductionist analysis, offering new insights for our contemporary moment. Register here for the webinar.

The Project on the History of Black Writing is a research unit in the Department of English within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. HBW, founded by Maryemma Graham, University Distinguished Professor of English at KU, has put literary recovery work at the center of its research and inclusion work for nearly 40 years. Most recently, HBW’s expansion with a number of digital humanities initiatives involves a partnership with KU Libraries and the HathiTrust Research Center. To date, the National Endowment for the Humanities has supported 15 of HBW’s publicly funded projects.

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Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, 785-864-2936, [email protected], @kuengineering
School of Engineering’s Tiberti Lecture set for Oct. 14
LAWRENCE — A past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers will give this year’s J.A. Tiberti Family Lecture at the University of Kansas School of Engineering.

Robin Kemper, a risk engineer with Zurich North America in New Jersey, served as ASCE president in 2019. Kemper will speak at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Spahr Engineering Classroom in Eaton Hall.

Kemper said her lecture will encourage KU’s engineering students to step outside their comfort zones to maximize their careers.

“It’s all about the ask,” she said. “If you want to do things in life, you need to ask for them — and if people ask you to do things, you need to say yes.”

Kemper has more than 35 years of experience as a structural engineer. Her current work includes providing technical support to construction project policies, developing best practices and investigating losses on construction projects. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Engineers Without Borders as well as the Civil Engineering Industrial Advisory Board of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, her alma mater. She is currently a member of the civil engineering industrial advisory boards for Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey.

“You almost never lose — I’m not going to say never — if you ask for what you want,” she said, previewing her lecture. “No one’s going to care more about yourself than you will. A lot of engineers are introverted, but to get to where you want to go in life you sometimes have to put yourself out there.”
Saying “yes” is also important, Kemper added. “You never know where it’s going to lead,” she said. “You have to be able to take some of those risks.”

The J.A. Tiberti Family Lecture began in 2011 through a contribution from members of the Tiberti family to the KU Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering. Topics focus on ethics, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and issues for the education, personal growth and professional development benefit of students.
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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
KU lands grant to co-train specialists who both aid children, yet rarely work together
LAWRENCE — Students with intellectual and developmental disability and complex communication needs are often supported by both special education teachers and speech-language pathologists. However, these professionals are rarely trained in both areas, and they rarely have the opportunity to learn and work together during their preparation programs. A new $1.25 million grant from the Office of Special Education Programs will support work at the University of Kansas to train these specialists while they are still in graduate school so that they can help students succeed.

“Students with intellectual disability and complex communication needs often need academic and communication supports in the general education classroom,” said Alison Zagona, assistant professor of special education at KU. “So we want to prepare the professionals who will provide these supports using best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration. Our intention is to provide opportunities for the master’s students in special education and speech-language pathology to gain skills in collaboration so that they feel prepared and confident to use these skills when they obtain positions in schools across the region and country.”

Jennifer Kurth, associate professor of special education, is principal investigator of Project INSTRUCT and is collaborating with Zagona and Jane Wegner, professor emerita of speech language hearing sciences and disorders. The five-year project provides tuition assistance and funding to attend professional conferences while participants complete their master’s degrees. These Project INSTRUCT scholars, from both special education and speech-language pathology at KU, visit K-12 schools together, enroll in coursework and complete assignments together.

“They’re getting on-the-ground, collaborative experience before assuming positions as professional educators,” Zagona said. “It’s innovative in that master’s students in special education and speech-language pathology are collaborating and moving through their programs together. They take courses together, complete assignments together, and they collaborate to support students with IDD and complex communication needs at local schools. Our students will be well-equipped to plan for their students’ needs, and they will support their students to access the general education curriculum.”

The project will also help boost inclusion of students in the general education classroom. While students with IDD and complex communication needs have traditionally been segregated to separate classrooms for special education and speech-language pathology, a large body of research from KU and other institutions has proven that inclusion boosts performance of all students, not just those with disabilities. Project INSTRUCT will prepare educators to boost inclusion by providing training in five key competencies for supporting students with intellectual disabilities: High expectations, intensive collaboration, differentiated instruction, intensive individual instruction and inclusive services.

Schools often face shortages of both special education teachers and speech-language pathologists, much less professionals with training in both areas. Those who complete Project INSTRUCT will have training in how to adapt curriculum to meet students with disabilities’ needs, or adapt communication services so students do not need to be pulled out of the classroom to receive services in those areas.

“These are often the students least likely to be included. But we know outcomes for students with intellectual disability and complex communication needs are better when they are included,” Zagona said. “With these professionals in schools, our hope is they will be able to put their knowledge into action and include these students in the general education classroom.”
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