Striking an Innovative Spark

Maxwell Hall, where UA’s first students studied astronomy, now houses the Collaborative Arts and Research Initiative, or CARI, where UA faculty from all disciplines meet to share, learn about and imagine arts-related research projects.  

Rebecca Salzer, associate professor of dance, has been CARI’s director since its inception in 2018. She described the initiative as encouraging and supporting innovative, interdisciplinary research that involves or is about the arts.  

“CARI gives faculty the opportunity to uncover new aspects of their research by collaborating across disciplines. A historian, anthropologist, engineer and choreographer all have different methods to discover and create, and bringing those methods together can have wonderful and surprising results.” 

Recent CARI-supported research projects have combined visual art and cosmic geology, music and history, dance and anthropology, and costume design and engineering.  

To spark these collaborations, CARI offers funding and networking opportunities, including their CoffeeLab series, a come-and-go event open to any faculty member, whether seeking a collaborator or just curious about the initiative. The next CoffeeLab will be Friday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon in Maxwell Hall. 

“We’ve had interesting projects come out of these casual networking events, as people share with each other and ideas are sparked,” Salzer said.  

CARI offers various avenues for involvement and support, including the Arts Faculty Research Fund, periodic calls for the Joint Pilot for Arts Research program, and the chance to become a CARI Fellow.  

“CARI has given me the opportunity to learn from faculty across campus and broaden the scope and reach of my research. I am working on projects that I never would have conceived of by myself, thanks to discussion and collaboration with faculty in the arts. These projects, and CARI in general, have allowed me to see how the arts and engineering can work hand in hand to be creative and scholarly while being grounded in application and serving the community.”

— Dr. Amanda Koh, assistant professor, chemical and biological engineering, and former CARI Fellow.  

Each February, a CARI Fellows cohort is chosen through an application process. This year’s fellowship applications are due Feb. 28, and the selected cohort will begin two-year fellowships in August. CARI Fellows receive $2,000 in funding per semester, priority access to Maxwell Hall’s space and equipment, and the benefit of being part of a close-knit interdisciplinary research community. 

“You can apply with a project you’re already working on, an idea for an arts-related research project, or even just with a desire to collaborate,” Salzer said. “Fellows’ meetings, which occur every other week, create connections and activate new collaborations so much so that even CARI Fellows who start with one specific project in mind often find that new ideas surface and they’re connected with multiple projects by the end of their fellowship term.” 

The number of Fellows in a cohort varies, Salzer said. Fellows are expected to attend meetings, work on at least one interdisciplinary project that includes a member of the creative team with a primary area of research or practice in the arts, design or creative writing, and submit at least one application for external funding.  

“Meetings vary based on the needs of the cohort,” Salzer said. “They sometimes feature guest speakers, but often serve as dedicated time for faculty to work together or share work in progress.”  


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