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Feb 25, 2013

Behind the scenes: From IDEA grant to reality

Part of the Dress and Identity in African Culture exhibit
An IDEA grant brings cultural awareness and understanding to a unique hands-on learning experience for JMU students.

Each year at JMU, creative and multidisciplinary ideas to enhance diversity come to fruition thanks to the Innovative Diversity Efforts Award (IDEA) Grants program.
A grant is often a launch pad. Bringing an innovative diversity effort to completion involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work and cross-disciplinary collaboration. One example: Aderonke Adesanya, Assistant Professor of Art History in the School of Art, Design and Art History, applied for, and won, an IDEA grant.

Eager to give others the opportunity to explore the diverse traditions found in Africa, she proposed that her ARTH 491 Exhibition Seminar course would culminate in an exhibition entitled Dress and Identity in African Cultures.

The $4,000 the grant awarded was a good start, but more funding was needed.

Adesanya requested support from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Office of International Programs, the University Studies, and the Center for Faculty Innovation. These units and her department contributed, and enough money was finally raised to fund the exhibit.

Then it became a question of what resources were readily available for such a project and what needed to be acquired.

Adesanya had to take into account what JMU had available and what needed to be brought in. She took numerous trips to request items from donors—not just the display pieces for the exhibit, but also other relevant props. She also made purchases including textiles and mannequins. Loans came from an African textiles collector in Washington, D.C., and generous donations of textiles and paraphernalia came from a Nigerian family in Austin, Texas.

It all came together. The exhibition provided valuable hands-on experience for JMU students and an enhanced understanding of diversity, not only for the students involved in the project, but also for exhibit visitors.

Another great idea to enhance cross-cultural understanding and diversity becomes reality, thanks to JMU's IDEA Grants.