UNT's 2014-15 Institute for the Advancement of the Arts fellows look to nature for inspiration in faculty projects

IAA 2014-15 fellows
Department of English Lecturer David Taylor, left, and Regents Professor of Studio Arts Harlan Butt are the two UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts 2014-15 fellows. They will each receive a semester off to work on creative research. Photo by Michael Clements.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 11:52

DENTON, Texas (UNT) – Two UNT faculty members will gather inspiration from nature when they complete projects as fellows in UNT's Institute for the Advancement of the Arts in the 2014-15 academic year.

Regents Professor of Studio Arts Harlan Butt and Department of English Lecturer David Taylor will be granted a semester off from teaching duties to work on their projects full time.

For Butt, that project will be a series of artwork inspired by nature while camping and spending time at U.S. National Parks. For Taylor, it will be a book of essays written after paddling down Texas rivers with musicians. More details on each project are below.

IAA fellowships are awarded following an application process and allow faculty members to create and present creative research projects. A list of past winners and their projects can be found on the IAA Emeritus Fellows site.

Harlan Butt

Hiking and camping are two activities Butt has enjoyed since 1979 and in 2003 the metalsmithing professor combined those hobbies with his art for his National Parks Project. For the project, he took photos and sketched while camping and hiking at national parks in the U.S. Then, he went back to his studio and created vessels with intricate lids that reflected the sights he had seen at the parks.

The IAA fellowship will allow Butt to continue his series. He starts at the end of May when he heads to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona to camp through the first two weeks of June. That will be followed by a camping trip to Glacier National Park in Montana and then Acadia National Park in Maine during the fall.

Although he typically creates two or three vessels that reflect his experiences at each park, Butt said he never goes into the parks with expectations. Each park is different and has its own character, so he allows himself the flexibility to express that. That flexibility can be seen in a tall, cylindrical silver and enamel vessel reminiscent of a cactus at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and, Butt's favorite piece, a short, rounded silver and enamel vessel with outlines of bears across it and a lid of leaves and blueberries (which the bears he watched were eating).

The vessels from Butt's National Parks Project have been exhibited locally at UNT on the Square and across the U.S. at the Appalachian Center for Crafts, National Ornament Metal Museum, James Madison University and other galleries. He expects the additional vessels he creates from this project to be exhibited at UNT on the Square and elsewhere.

David Taylor

In 1983, Taylor took up guitar and learned to play the cowboy and folk songs his mother loved to listen to when she was growing up on a West Texas ranch. One song that stood out to him is dubbed "Texas River Song" – its songwriter and official title are unknown, but it was popularized by Townes Van Zandt as "Brazos River Song." The song mentions the names of several Texas rivers while telling the story of a man who lost a would-be girlfriend.

For his IAA fellows project, Taylor will take contemporary Texas musicians on 15 to 20 mile canoe trips down the Trinity and other rivers in the state. He wants to get their thoughts and musings on the "Texas River Song" and the 14 rivers mentioned in the song for a compilation of essays that will eventually be turned into a book.

Taylor has started contacting musicians and hopes to include UNT alumni as well as ethnically diverse artists – from cowboy and contemporary to Hispanic music and hip hop artists. He expects to take at least 17 canoe trips from September 2014 to December 2014. Radio Television and Film Professor Melinda Levin will attend some of the trips to film them and he expects to include photographers on the trips, as well.

He hopes to have a manuscript completed by May 2015 and a book published by the following year.

About the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts

Launched in 2009, the UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts (IAA) aims to showcase, support and advance excellence in the visual, performing and creative literary arts at UNT, among its faculty members and in conjunction with their renowned colleagues and collaborators. The three central components of the Institute are UNT on the Square, the IAA Faculty Fellows program and the IAA Artist-in-Residence program. The IAA Faculty Fellows program provides UNT (Denton campus) Faculty Fellows with 100 percent reassignment for one semester to accomplish and present creative research projects. Participants are selected through an annual application process open to all UNT (Denton campus) full-time faculty in the visual, performing and creative literary arts.

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