U of A Community Design Center Receives $40,000 NEA Grant for Cultural Mappings Project

Detail of a map in the 1971 book "Spout Spring: A Black Community" by Peter H. Kunkel, a Black former University of Arkansas professor, and Sara Sue Kennard, as part of the Case Studies Series in Cultural Anthropology. The book is about the neighborhood east of downtown Fayetteville that the U of A Community Design Center and collaborators are mapping in a project funded with an NEA grant.
Image courtesy U of A Community Design Center

Detail of a map in the 1971 book "Spout Spring: A Black Community" by Peter H. Kunkel, a Black former University of Arkansas professor, and Sara Sue Kennard, as part of the Case Studies Series in Cultural Anthropology. The book is about the neighborhood east of downtown Fayetteville that the U of A Community Design Center and collaborators are mapping in a project funded with an NEA grant.

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the development of Cultural Mappings of Black Heritage along Spout Spring in Fayetteville.

The $40,000 award is through the NEA's Grants for Arts Projects program. The grant will support the research of the African American community and the creation of mapping strategies for 15-30 composite drawings using multiple literacies ranging from serial "filmstrip" narratives, to collages, "thick description" drawings that reconstruct lost local Black heritage landscapes, and GIS-based maps of Fayetteville's African American built environment.

In total, the NEA will award 958 Grants for Arts Projects awards totaling more than $27.1 million that were announced last month as part of its first round of fiscal year 2024 grants.

The U of A Community Design Center, directed by Steve Luoni since 2003, is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Luoni is also a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies at the university.

"Change requires storytelling," Luoni said. "This new descriptive agency involving humanities-based scholars, community organizers, artists, archeologists and architects/urban designers models a new equity-based planning approach beginning with stories that build coalitions, motivate institutional redesign, and construct new urban forms. The project employs design thinking to visualize forgotten histories while providing lessons in how cities work, for better or for worse."

The Cultural Mappings aim to visualize culturally excluded African American heritage and urbanism in Fayetteville, toward the development of content for an exhibition, and for municipal policy and planning.

The U of A Community Design Center and the Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association Inc. (NWA Black Heritage) will collaborate with several partners. These include Ngozi Brown, AIA, owner and principal of NOB A+D and assistant professor of practice in the Fay Jones School, and Brandon Bibby (B.Arch. '14), an architect and alumnus, who both specialize in African American cultural preservation and placemaking. Other collaborators are Ernest Banks (B.Arch. '18), an architect and alumnus, and other Black architectural professionals, as well as the U of A African and African American Studies Program. The Arkansas Archeological Survey will assist in developing a set of multimodal drawings that chronicle 20th century African American community patterns formed since emancipation in Fayetteville.

NWA Black Heritage, led by its co-founder and award-winning artist Sharon Killian, with Caree Banton, Ph.D., chair of the Department of History, former director of the African and African American Studies Program, and author on African diaspora history, will lead outreach and acquisition of primary source materials, possibly including material from residents of the Spout Spring neighborhood. The newly designed African and American Studies course, The Historic Northwest Arkansas, will be a part of collecting oral histories for this project.

"The American cultural canon is hobbled for all of us by continuing to defend critical errors in our history producing toxic damage to its fabric," Killian said. "Mapping authentic Black cultural landscape in Fayetteville should lead to more logical practices than we've historically taken here and throughout the country."

Through the research, the team will engage descendant groups and other stakeholders to assemble content from oral histories and personal collections. Jami Lockhart, archeologist, author on Arkansas history, and director of GIS and Archaeogeophysical Research at Arkansas Archeological Survey, will help confirm unmarked burials for NWA Black Heritage using remote sensing in the African American burial grounds on East Mountain overlooking the Spout Spring neighborhood.

The research will be used to create exhibition-ready drawings that narrate three cultural themes: segregation by design from impacts on housing, education and commerce to real estate and banking practices; a subaltern urbanism that unevenly diverged from white residents, including appreciation of Black agency in placemaking; and "thick descriptions" of everyday life that illuminate community structure.

The project aims to consolidate documentation and discover new material in reconstructing a visual record of Fayetteville's historic African American community and to build awareness of the role played by African Americans in Fayetteville's development. The researchers hope the work leads to neighborhood investments for reparative planning in the African American community while improving models of cultural inquiry in planning and design.

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.

Contacts

Tara Ferkel, communications specialist
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-841-5697, tferkel@uark.edu

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu

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