School of Art Assistant Professor Zora J Murff Named Emerging Scholar

Zora Murff
Novo Studio

Zora Murff

The School of Art in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences congratulates assistant professor Zora J Murff named as a 2021 Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Murff is one of 15 scholars named and celebrated for their achievements as well as the difference they are making in higher education. The publication has recognized an interdisciplinary group of minority scholars who represent the very best of the United States academy for 20 years.

The School of Art welcomed Murff as a visiting assistant professor in photography in 2018. After completing his first year, he became a full-time assistant professor and co-head of the photography area. 

"We are thrilled to congratulate Zora on his selection as an Emerging Scholar," said Gerry Snyder, executive director of the School of Art. "The application of his unique scholarship and leadership make significant contributions to our students, faculty, and community in providing a larger context for understanding of how images can reinforce social and cultural constructs of racism. We would like to join with others in celebrating Zora's success." 

Murff received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Iowa State University. He has been recognized and honored within academic spaces, fine art gallery spaces, publications and independent art organizations.

"Zora's scholarship is vast, his undergraduate background in psychology informs the complexity of his work as he inquiries about intersectionality within his subjects, his own life and within his art practice," said Rebecca Drolen, assistant professor and co-head of photography. "He is respected at the highest level within the field. His exceptional commitment and trajectory as a researcher distinguish him an ideal emerging scholar."

Merging his educational experiences, Murff uses his practice to highlight intersections between various social systems and art. He uses photography as a way to explore the histories of American systems and the role imagery plays in shaping the belief in them.

The MoMA recently included Murff's body of work At No Point in Betweenexploring the historically Black neighborhood of North Omaha, Nebraska, in an online exhibition Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020.

At No Point in Between, and other works including exploring the juvenile criminal justice system and points of extreme anti-Black violence, investigates fast and slow violence, racist policies, government oppression and injustice through portraits of citizens and landscape images.  

"I think about how those particular histories connect with police violence against Black individuals that we unfold in surveillance footage today," said Murff. "My work uses photography to connect different types of anti-Black violence that have been perpetrated throughout history. How do we understand that through images?" 

Murff's thriving art practice benefits students and colleagues as his work as a professor and artist are inseparable, one constantly informs and motivates the other.

He has been a leader within institutional and community conversations in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, challenging students, colleagues and leaders to ask themselves whether this moment will lead to legitimate change or be talk without action.

"Zora has been a force for transformation at the School of Art," said Sam King, program director of studio art. "He models a 21st century art practice, compelling in its passion, candor, and breadth of vision."

Inclusivity is at the forefront of Murff's teaching. He continuously looks for voices writing about today's art and different viewpoints to share with students. 

He strives to share experiences outside of views meant to perpetuate difference, working to decenter whiteness, ableism, and heteronormativity. By frankly addressing positionality, he acknowledges the inequities of photographic and art history, and the resulting oppressions in both the academy and field.

Murff is a dedicated mentor to students. He encourages them to consider their own identity and social responsibility as makers. 

In addition, he works closely with graduate students sharing strategies about getting their work in the field, how to present themselves and speak about their work.

The School of Art congratulates Murff as an Emerging Scholar. To learn more Murff's career and accomplishments visit or follow him on Instagram @zorajmurff.



Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications
School of Art


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