Summer arts researchers hone their crafts

This summer, the Mellon Initiative Research Fellowship program gave Trinity students the opportunity to conduct research in the arts and humanities fields. Students developed their work with faculty members on projects related to various subject areas including fine arts, theatre and literature.

For many student researchers, the main draw of carrying out projects with the Mellon Initiative was to further their interests in the arts.

Junior Kristina Reinis, a student researcher, worked alongside English professor Willis Salomon to research aspects of English poet John Donne’s elegies. Reinis focused her attention on Donne’s poem “Sappho to Philaenis” to explore the implications of the poem within the context of gender studies.

“I looked at how this poem fits in Donne’s cannon, how does he look at gender relations and how do these gender relations work within the time of the renaissance and in London, specifically, where he was writing at the time,” Reinis said. “[Then] I asked the question, ‘What is femininity when not defined by men?’”

Reinis, a double major in art and English, particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to create paintings alongside her written research.

“I did three portraits of three different women and explored the question in a contemporary context of what are women, what is femininity,” Reinis said. “[I] wrote a 17-page paper but also did three paintings. It was a really great way to combine my interests.”

Senior theatre major Holly Gabelmann’s research brought her to the town of Fara in Sabina, Italy this summer. Gabelmann spent her time there researching site-specific theatre alongside senior Nico Champion and professor of theatre Kyle Gillette. The researchers worked with the theatre troupe Teatro Potlach in their ongoing performance project Invisible Cities, which involves the creation of site-based performances unique to a specific city.

“The goal is to put performances throughout the city and have the audience walk through and look at all the performances and see the city in a new way. So using lights, cloth and projection, they try to transform things to bring the hidden elements of the city out into the open,” Gabelmann said.

Gabelmann expressed her gratitude for the experience, which allowed her to pursue her interest in performance studies and stressed her belief in the importance of the project.

“I want people to understand why theatre is important, … [there are] things people think about theater, [that] it’s just entertainment, but it’s a way of understanding how people think, how people communicate,” Gabelmann said.

For another Mellon Initiative project, senior Liz Day worked with art history professor Mark Garrison to contextualize artifacts from the collection of Near Eastern cylinder seals at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Day would look at impressions of the cylinder seals in the collection and compare them to seals from other museum collections, with the goal of identifying the origin of each artifact and what the figures depicted on each seal meant.

Day, an art and art history major, attested to the value in being able to develop skills related to her desired career throughout her time working on the project.

“I want to be a curator when I graduate and go [on to my] master’s degree. So being able to catalog is one of the most important skills and to describe an art piece and research what it’s about and its history is a skill I absolutely have to have. So being able to do that with the Mellon [Initiative] was perfect for my future,” Day said.