University of North Texas

UNT Insider | April 2013 issue | Creativity flows through IAA faculty fellows

Subscribe  Unsubscribe

Creativity flows through IAA faculty fellows

From a UNT News Service press release

Robert Jessup, professor of studio arts; Bonnie Friedman, assistant professor of English; and Claudia Howard Queen, assistant professor of music for dance, have been selected as faculty fellows in UNT's Institute for the Advancement of the Arts for the 2013-14 academic year.

As fellows, the three professors will be granted a semester off from teaching to enhance and showcase their creative work, which helps bring awareness to the arts at UNT.

Robert Jessup

Jessup will use his fellowship to challenge his own style of painting. Jessup went to Europe five years ago as what he calls a "self-styled Realist painter" and came back with a desire to shake up his artistic style.

"The easiest description is to say the work has gone from Realistic Figuration to Abstraction -- but that is not quite right. What I have been after is a new pictorial language, one where abstract forms signify in ways similar to figurative ones," Jessup says.

Once finished, Jessup intends to show the work at UNT on the Square, and in Dallas and Houston. The work he has done so far will be shown at the Taylor Foundation in Paris in June, along with the works of six other American artists represented by the Besharat Gallery of Atlanta and Barbizon.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my work that the IAA Fellowship will provide," Jessup says. "The funding is coming at such a great time for me. New ways of picture-making have consolidated in the last year and this fellowship will enable me to fully develop, explore and express these new ideas."

Jessup instructs drawing and painting students in the UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design. His work is in several prominent public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the University of Virginia Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. He has been exhibiting for more than 30 years and has had multiple solo exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Bonnie Friedman

Friedman will use her fellowship to continue work on essays for her Kingdoms of the Bronx collection, which will be nine lyric creative nonfiction essays when complete. Five of the essays have been published or accepted to be published in top-tier literary venues, with two of the essays nominated for prestigious Pushcart prizes and one selected as a Notable Essay for The Best American Essays of 2012. The IAA fellowship will give Friedman the time needed to write the four remaining essays.

"Kingdoms of the Bronx is about the tension between the narrow material circumstances of a particular second-generation-immigrant Bronx community and the imaginative aspirations that promise escape," Friedman says. "One person tries to escape through the intense study of physics, another through fierce devotion to the iron, old-world God of her grandmother, another through Weight Watchers, and another through sheer affability, even at the cost of downplaying his considerable intellect. The people examined in this collection are searching for ways out of constricting circumstances, and often finding them, although they come with unexpected trade-offs."

Friedman says she is thrilled about being honored with the fellowship.

"It is difficult to hold an entire book that one is writing fully in mind during the course of a semester," she says. "The time to devote exclusively to writing will allow me to make the kinds of intuitive, psychic inner connections that books require to be most deeply significant to readers"

Essays from Friedman's first book, Writing Past Dark, are anthologized and excerpted in seven different writing textbooks. The book was also selected to be a Village Voice Bestseller. Friedman was selected to be a fellow at the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown and also at the MacDowell Arts Colony. She was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Her essays have been chosen for inclusion in The Best American Movie Writing, the Best Writing on Writing and The Practical Stylist.

Claudia Howard Queen

Queen will use the fellowship to travel to sacred Celtic sites in Ireland known as "Thin Places, where the veil between heaven and earth are thin." Inspired by these sacred places, she will compose a 20-minute music score for a new dance work based on Celtic mysticism. The music will explore the use of female Sean-nós, a type of traditional Irish a cappella singing, and the mystical qualities of the pentatonic (five-tone) scale, and their effect on the body. Queen will feature the final music/dance work in New York, choreographed by critically acclaimed choreographer, Sėan Curran and performed by the contemporary Irish dance company, Darrah Carr Dance.

"I truly believe that the arts can work hand-in-hand with science to uplift and improve the human condition intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically," Queen says. "I see the IAA Fellowship as a great honor and also as a responsibility to strive to create something of significance toward this goal. I am very grateful for this opportunity."

As a composer and multi-instrumentalist for dance, Queen creates uplifting, kinesthetic music that both moves the dancers physically and moves audiences emotionally. Her scores have toured the U.S., Ireland, England, Uruguay and Taiwan. She has collaborated with more than 200 instructors as a dance musician at the American Dance Festival, in New York and Chicago studios, and at universities throughout the U.S., in China and Taiwan. Queen has received two Fulbright Specialist awards to share her music for dance with Taiwan's foremost dance school, Taipei National University of the Arts. In addition she has earned three awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her original music. She has performed with improvisational dance artists including Taiwanese company, Ku & Dancers.

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 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 full-time faculty in the visual, performing and creative literary arts.

Margarita Venegas with UNT News Service can be reached at

Read other stories in this issue:

April 2013

About UNT Insider

The UNT Insider is brought to you by the Office of the President in conjunction with the Division of University Relations, Communications and Marketing. Please send any comments or suggestions to