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Spencer Museum hosts MacArthur Fellows for public dialogue on research spanning arts, sciences

Monday, November 06, 2017

LAWRENCE — On Nov. 10, the Spencer Museum of Art will host two MacArthur Fellows for a discussion about working across disciplines. University of Kansas paleontologist Christopher Beard and sculptor Elizabeth Turk will speak about how their work intersects during Friday’s event, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Spencer Museum Auditorium.

Beard, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary and senior curator at KU’s Biodiversity Institute, received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000. His research involves asking questions about fossils and a distant evolutionary past.

Turk, an artist whose work transforms the classical and hefty material of marble into intricate forms, received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010. Both Beard and Turk incorporate the delicate handling of natural materials and the use of imagination in their work.

“Artists and scientists alike are fascinated by fundamental questions related to shape and size, as well as the constraints imposed by nature on the range of shapes and sizes that can be produced, either at the hands of a skilled artist or through natural selection acting over the course of millions of years,” Beard said.

In addition to a public conversation, the Spencer Museum will host an installation in its Brosseau Learning Center featuring sculpture by Turk and fossil specimens from the Biodiversity Institute’s collection selected by Beard. The installation will be on view Nov. 7-19.

These programs accompany the first research forum for the Spencer Museum’s Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI). Each semester, IARI hosts faculty, graduate and undergraduate fellows from fields across KU. In much the same way that MacArthur Fellowships, often called “Genius Awards,” provide financial support for creative pursuits, the Spencer’s IARI fellowships provide stipends that allow KU scholars to dedicate time to interdisciplinary research projects with the Museum.

Joey Orr, the Spencer’s Andrew W. Mellon Curator for Research, coordinates programming for IARI and will lead the conversation with Beard and Turk. Orr said the dialogue, which follows a 4 p.m. forum for past and current IARI fellows, will help anchor the discussion of research across diverse disciplines.

“Both the forum and the dialogue aim to share and encourage the importance of interdisciplinary inquiry,” Orr said. “By putting work at KU in direct relation to the work of MacArthur Fellows, we hold ourselves to the most rigorous standards in our pursuit of risk-taking and the production of new knowledges.”

The public dialogue with Beard and Turk is funded through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Programming information

IARI Research Forum

Friday, Nov. 10, 4-5 p.m., Spencer Museum of Art, Reception Room

Now in its second year, the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) integrates the arts into KU research. Join current and past faculty, undergraduate, and graduate IARI fellows for a discussion of their interdisciplinary work.


MacArthur Dialogue

Friday, Nov. 10, 5:30–6:30 p.m., Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium

Spencer Museum Curator for Research Joey Orr leads a public conversation with two MacArthur Fellows: KU paleontologist Christopher Beard and sculptor Elizabeth Turk.

Top photo: Foundation Distinguished Professor Christopher Beard. Photo credit: KU Marketing Communications.

Right photo: Elizabeth Turk, “Marble & Baja Beach Stone 13,” 2015, courtesy of the artist and Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York. Credit: Eric Stoner​