Puhlkari by Kira Bhumber. Photographer: Andrew Howell. Used with permission

Ground Works is a platform for exemplary arts-inclusive research projects and reflection on the processes that drive interdisciplinary collaboration.

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Vibrant Ecologies of Research

Editor: Aaron D. Knochel

What are the elements necessary to create a vibrant ecology of research where art and design inquiry may flourish alongside, within, and out of social and physical science research that is so deeply embedded within the fiber of research-oriented universities? In this special collection of Ground Works, the project work and commentaries explore vibrant ecologies of research, deepening our understanding of the institutional, social, and epistemological systems that effectively weave arts-based inquiry into the scholarly fabric of research.

August 2022 · 10.48807/2022.2.0001 · CC-BY-NC

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Vibrant Ecologies of Research Wins Award from Council of Editors of Learned Journals
January 12, 2023

a2ru Ground Works has been honored by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) with its 2022 “Best Special Issue” award for Vibrant Ecologies of Research. T...


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Featured Articles

Just-in-time Ecology of Interdisciplinarity: Working with 'Viral Imaginations' in Pandemic Times

Lauren Stetz, Karen Keifer-Boyd, and Michele Mekel

The Pennsylvania State University 'Viral Imaginations: COVID-19' project is a curated, online, publicly-accessible gallery and archive of Pennsylvanians’ creative expressions in response to their first-person, lived coronavirus pandemic realities. Constructing a safe and empowering space for sharing experiences across strata of race, ethnicity, language, age, socioeconomic status, education, and ability, the archive provides a platform for the preservation of unique and diverse narratives. Designed as a highly interdisciplinary endeavor, 'Viral Imaginations' brings together specialists from multiple domains— including art education; bioethics; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; communication arts and sciences; information technology; and data analytics—into a robust, just-in-time ecology that produces public good and hybrid scholarship. Arising from a university seed-funding call for proposals during pandemic exigencies, this project demonstrates how coalescing around crisis can yield critical theory, scholarly discourse, and pedagogical opportunities across various fields through arts and humanities inquiries. Such scholarship, in turn, has cultivated interrelationships among 'Viral Imaginations' faculty, fomenting deep disciplinary integration, such as academic collaboration, faculty cross-appointment, and the introduction of expanded courses and novel academic program offerings. Artistic works within the 'Viral Imaginations' archive often challenge existing worldviews and traditions, calling individuals to question perceptions of reality, along with ethical judgments made in times of collective trauma. Ecologies of epistemology manifested in the visual and poetic work produced and exhibited in 'Viral Imaginations,' disrupting how we have known ourselves and our environment. Utilizing digital capacities to rearrange and reimagine order and relationality, the pandemic stories that emerge provide poignant insights into the affective state of humanity in crisis.

August 2022 · 10.48807/2022.0.0085 · CC-BY-NC-ND

Cultural Engagements in Nutrition, Arts and Sciences (CENAS)

Tamara Underiner, Stephani Etheridge Woodson, Robert Karimi, and Seline Szkupinski Quiroga

Borrowing the Spanish word for “dinner,” CENAS is a transdisciplinary working group of scholars and artists developing, implementing and evaluating innovative approaches to healthy eating at the individual and community level, with arts practices at its center. Since 2012, CENAS has been involved with training, workshops, curriculum development, and research into the following questions: (1) Can the arts in general, and theatre-making in particular, empower individuals and communities to take charge of their health? (2) How does theatre-making relate to individual attitudinal and behavioral change? (3) What role does culture play in health? (4) Are the arts more effective in the long term than more traditional educational practices? Our research with young people and community health workers suggests that cooking together, combined with theatre-making activities, is linked positively to “I can do this” attitudes. We believe making theatre, more than merely watching it, is the key. We link the various components involved in making theatre together to factors identified by health scientists as necessary for attitudinal and behavioral change to occur. A growing body of research suggests the importance of culturally informed interventions in health promotion, yet most definitions of “culture” are pretty narrow. We are working to develop a more robust and nuanced accounting for cultural background as health asset, initially through embodied storytelling practices and theatre-making drawn from participants’ experiences of home cooking.

January 2018 · 10.48807/2020.0004

Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab

Eric Benson

Fresh Press is an interdisciplinary research and making lab at the University of Illinois that explores the potential of regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as art, paper, and objects. Our mission is to develop entrepreneurial and artistic markets for paper products originating from locally produced sustainable agricultural fiber waste (corn stalks, rye, hemp, and prairie grasses). We are divided into three organizational components: research, residencies, and outreach. Our research involves developing new models, methods, and applications for the integration of agri-fiber waste paper as a viable commercial alternative to wood pulp. Currently, our main research endeavors are the engineering of a conservation-grade sustainable case paper for use in mending books in the Illinois library collection, and the creation of agri-fiber building materials (bricks and insulation) for architecture. Fresh Press also seeks to shape and educate through papermaking workshops and lectures, steward the land we use in our craft, and investigate indigenous plant and agricultural fibers for the arts to help solve global environmental and social issues. Our recent artist residencies supported painters and sculptors who created visual experimentations, compositions, books, and sculptural collages that represent our ecosystems. As a place on this planet, we aim to leave a minimal footprint. We collect rainwater for papermaking, have installed solar panels on our partner farm, and do not use fossil fuels in our cooking processes for paper. We hope Fresh Press will become the model for small-scale sustainable papermaking, which can eventually be applied to a larger industrial practice.

August 2022 · 10.48807/2022.0.0057 · CC-BY-NC-ND

Featured Commentaries

Invited commentary on Vibrant Ecologies of Research

Ecologies of Transdisciplinary Research

Paul Shrivastava, Laszlo Zsolnai, David Wasieleski, and Philippe Mairesse

There is a need to bridge the arts with the sciences to fully address the social and environmental crises facing the planet. Transdisciplinarity can meet this need if certain barriers are overcome: namely, delimited thinking and dysfunctional institutional structures.

August 2022 · 10.48807/2022.1.0009 · CC-BY-NC-SA

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Author commentary on Machines That Dream

A Reflection on 'Machines that Dream'

Benjamin David Robert Bogart

My aim is not merely to make use of knowledge in cognitive neuroscience, but to contribute through the generative capacity of artistic practice. However, the work remains in limbo, unpublished in disciplinary contexts and merely summarized in interdisciplinary journals.

November 2020 · 10.48807/2022.1.0001

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