Symposium showcases six students’ scholarship in arts

Senior Natalie Naor presents her research in "Touching Skin: A Material Call to Action through the Guise of Leather Bookbindings" on April 17 as part of the Student Research Symposium. Emma Kindig / The Tufts Daily

On Friday, April 17, the Student Research Symposium showcased six students’ research works-in-progress, representing a broad range of subjects in the arts. The symposium was held as a part of the first-ever Spring Festival for the Arts@Tufts.

Professor of Music Joseph Auner explained that a goal of the symposium was to create an opportunity for students, faculty and alumni from various departments to get a sense of the range of scholarship in the arts.

Auner said he coordinated the symposium with assistance from Art and Art History Department Chair Peter Probst, Director of Dance Renata Celichowska, Drama and Dance Department Chair Heather Nathans and Danna Solomon (LA ’11), a staff assistant in the Department of Music.

“I think people who are not in the arts think of it mainly in terms of performance and concerts, and they don’t realize the research and scholarship that happens in the arts,” Auner stated.

He noted that he and Probst evaluated over a dozen student proposals from multiple departments to select the presenters.

“There was an open call that went to undergraduate and graduate students asking for submissions, and we got a good bunch of submissions, and we decided ones that could fit and would work well as presentations that would be understandable to people in other fields,” he explained.

Seniors Daniel Joseph, Natalie Naor, Grace Hoyt and Scarlett Engle, along with graduate students Paola Page and Thomas Hanslowe were selected to share their research at the symposium. Students had 10 minutes each to present their research, with additional time allotted for follow-up discussion.

Auner said that he felt the symposium provided audience members as well as presenters the opportunity to learn from one another.

“We hope that people in the audience and the people presenting the papers will get a much better sense of the kinds of issues, methodologies and approaches people are using in other fields,” Auner added.

Naor said she looked forward to this aspect of the symposium, as she said she often feels a divide among students of the arts who have different primary interests.

Naor presented her research on the disconnects between modern readers and medieval readers in terms of medieval leather book bindings. She said that she hopes her research illuminated issues she sees with the way people look at art.

“We need to recognize that the way that we look at art history can maybe be tweaked, and maybe we should be starting from the material level instead of going straight to image and text and consider what [the material] can tell us about the art that we’re studying,” she stated.

Naor noted that presenting at the symposium served as good practice for her future, as she hopes to continue to present academic research as a rare book and manuscript conservator.

“I think that I can get some really good feedback about my project, maybe some directions that I didn’t think of to go that I can go,” she added.

Engle agreed, noting that the discussion and feedback was the best part about the symposium for her as a speaker.

“Having other people critically engage with our work was great to see and gave me some things to think about while completing my independent study [research],” she said.

Naor mentioned that she hopes that this event will be repeated in the future, along with more festivals of the arts because of a current lack of emphasis by the university on the programs of the arts departments.

“I feel like sometimes the arts gets a little bit underrepresented,” she said. “It was really nice to read about an entire weekend dedicated to all of the arts departments on campus.”

The Spring Festival for the Arts@Tufts was collaboratively held by the Department of Art History, the Department of Drama and Dance, the Department of Music, the Communications and Media Studies Program, Creative Writing, the Experimental College, the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, the Tufts University Art Gallery, the AS&E Diversity Fund and the Dean of Arts and Sciences office.

According to Auner, the festival featured many other events and activities, including a student performance showcase, discussions about arts engagement and activism, faculty and alumni roundtables and a panel on the new film study program. He said that he hopes the festival provides an opportunity for students, faculty and alumni across disciplines to come together to learn about different perspectives.

“The value of it is that students can get a sense of the broad range of approaches in scholarship on the arts and the relevance and importance of this scholarship,” Auner said.