Letter from the Vice Provost
I hope you’ve had a restful winter break and an enjoyable start to the spring semester. I am honored to serve in the inaugural role of Vice Provost for Arts and Libraries. When I stepped into this role in July 2022, it was my hope to give greater visibility to the arts and libraries at Vanderbilt University, each an established, flourishing community and network of resources to our campus. This fall, my office, with the input of three faculty and staff advisory committees, formulated the strategic plan for the arts; launched the Arts, Discovery, and Innovation Fund; and created, with the assistance of my superb staff, the Incunabula website, a centralized repository for arts and libraries-related events, among other projects.
In 2023, it continues to be my mission to engage the arts and libraries in the university’s core strategies of discovery, global impact, and innovation; they are both defining sources of robust academic collaboration and civic engagement, high-level inquiry, and interdisciplinary practice.
This inaugural issue of Incunabula: The Office for Arts & Libraries Newsletter provides a guidepost to the arts and archives-related activities at Vanderbilt University. It offers information on spring exhibitions and programs and highlights the work of our faculty, staff, students, and community partners. Incunabula will be published once every fall and spring semester. Additionally, throughout the academic year, the Office for Arts and Libraries will send out shorter email blasts representing the full spectrum of events offered on and around our campus.
Tracy D. Sharpley-Whiting
Vice Provost for Arts & Libraries
Events from the A&L Office
The Reinvented Life of Belle da Costa Greene
Be sure to check out the exhibition on Belle da Costa Greene, famed 20th-century librarian for J.P. Morgan and expert on incunabula, that will open in Special Collections on Feb. 14. Born Belle Marion Greener in 1879, she was the daughter of the first African American graduate of Harvard University. She accessed the rarefied worlds of the Morgans and Vanderbilts by “passing” as a white woman. In exploring her reinvented life, this exhibition and series of events will engage questions on race, class, gender, and passing in the early 20th century.
- Feb. 14. Exhibition Opening Reception
- Feb. 16. Panel Discussion
- Feb. 8 & March 22 Greene Reading Groups
- March 23 Film Screening
Faculty & Staff Spotlight
Rebecca VanDiver, History of Art and Architecture Department
Vanderbilt faculty and staff are actively engaged in the production of art and its critical analysis. For our spring 2023 newsletter, we want to highlight the research of art historian and Associate Professor Rebecca VanDiver. She met with us last semester to discuss her book Designing a New Tradition: Loïs Mailou Jones and the Aesthetics of Blackness (Pennsylvania State University Press 2020), which provides a critical analysis of the art and career of African American painter Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998). VanDiver examines Jones’s engagement with African and Afrodiasporic themes, the influence of travel on her art, and the larger shifting conceptions of blackness, with which the changes in her art styles and subject matter coincide. Designing a New Tradition is a finalist for the 2023 James A. Porter Book Award.
National Museum of African American Music
NMAAM dedicates its resources and collection to preserving and celebrating the history of Black music in America. This museum integrates history and interactive technology to share the central role of African American musicians in the creation of the American soundtrack. This month, NMAAM kicked off This is Hip Hop, a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop and a related photography exhibition.
Ways Vanderbilt partners with NMAAM:
Revive | احیا
The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
Jan. 27 - June 4
Revive | احیا is the spring exhibition curated by Raheleh Filsoofi, assistant professor in ceramics, for the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery as part of the Tennessee Triennial RE-PAIR. This exhibition explores reinterpretation and reimagination. Descriptions of ceramic objects in the gallery’s collection were written and then given to seven Middle Eastern artists who created new works of art, based solely on the essay given to them, never seeing the object themselves.
Programs responding to the exhibition include weekly Art for Lunch programs each Tuesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., returning with Vandy Draws, hosted by Professor Angus Galloway, on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Later in the semester, curator and artist talks will be offered.
Caught in the Act: The Vanderbilt New Play Festival
Vanderbilt Department of Theatre
8 p.m. on Feb. 3, 4, 10 and 11, Neely Auditorium
This two-weekend festival will present readings of seven new plays written and directed by Vanderbilt faculty and students. The festival delivers a wide variety of genres and topics ranging from uproariously funny exposé of the lives of socks to a delicate meditation on grief and adolescence. Faculty submissions include works by Kristyl D. Tift and Krista Knight, and student works are represented in plays by Natalie Wright, Elijah Crenshaw-Smith, Rory Miller, Sarah Lovett and Richard Zhang.
Gertrude C. and Harold S. Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series
Vanderbilt Department of English
7 p.m. on Thursdays (2/9, 2/23, 3/2, 3/23, 4/13), Buttrick 101
Each semester, this series brings several professional writers to campus to present their works and visit classes. The spring 2023 series began last Thursday with Megha Majumdar, author of the New York Times bestseller and Editors’ Choice A Burning. It will continue throughout the semester with critically received authors and poets visiting campus.
Cherokee and Chickasaw Students at Vanderbilt, 1885-1899
Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries
April 1-July 10, Central Library Fourth Floor Lobby
This exhibit focuses on Cherokee and Chickasaw students at Vanderbilt in the 1880s and 1890s. It explores what drew these students to Nashville, how they spent their years at Vanderbilt and what their lives were like after returning to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. After Vanderbilt, most worked closely with their nations during some of the most difficult decades in the history of tribal sovereignty when the federal government was dissolving tribal governments and breaking up and selling reservation lands. The Vanderbilt students featured in this exhibition helped their nations survive, and, towards the end of their lives, they saw a resurgence of tribal self-government during the New Deal.
This project is curated by Daniel Sharfstein, the Dick and Martha Lansden Chair in Law and Professor of History, in collaboration with the Special Collections from the Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries. It is part of the larger Sesquicentennial Celebration.