Cross Pollinating the Arts and Humanities

This image of merged elements from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Albert Bierstadt, The Sentinel, late 19th century) and the J. Willard Marriott Library (Rogers, H. D. Territory of Utah. 1857, Special Collections) suggests the potential of joint research and engagement initiatives between the museum and the library, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

A graduate student is investigating representations of Native American culture and its transformation over time. Using the joint UMFA-Marriott Library catalog search, she is able to access Euro-American representations of American Indians in oil and in bronze, nineteenth-century ethnographic plate books with prints by George Catlin and Karl Bodmer, and photographic albums with images by Edward Curtis and William Soule. In addition to the iconographical evidence, she successfully accesses maps and other archival material and later, oral histories to provide an additional documentary dimension to her research.

The conceptual scenario above describes an example of the types of projects that could benefit from a unique, $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York City. The J. Willard Marriott Library and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts have been awarded the grant that will provide partial funding for a four-year, innovative collaboration that will transform how the library and museum work together. The joint research and engagement initiative, called “Landscape, Land Art, and the American West” will establish the U as a global resource hub for artists and scholars studying the West and create ongoing access to the remarkable collections, resources, and knowledge available at both institutions.

As leaders in the region for scholarly research, exhibition design, and collections care, the library and museum curate extensive—but separate—holdings related to environmental and cultural histories of the Intermountain West. This project will increase the visibility and value of these overlapping collections by developing shared technology to promote the discovery and use of both collections, thereby enhancing faculty and student research.

This one-time grant—the largest Mellon Foundation grant the U has received and the only Mellon grant awarded to the U in the arts and humanities—is intended to support structural change to sustain the UMFA and Marriott Library collaborations well beyond the grant period, which runs from January 1, 2018 through 2021. The grant will be matched by $200,000 from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and additional support from across campus, including from the colleges of Fine Arts, Health, Humanities, and Mines and Earth Sciences.

Gary and Ann Crocker Science Center


Friends and colleagues gather with the Crockers to celebrate the opening of the Crocker Science Center. L to R: Henry S. White, U President Ruth V. Watkins, David Pershing, Pierre Sokolsky, Spence Eccles, Dinesh Patel, Gary Crocker, Ann Crocker, Gov. Gary R. Herbert, Mary Jane O’Connor-Ririe, and Kirk Ririe   Photo by Trevor Muhler

With much fanfare, University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins, former U President David W. Pershing, and College of Science Dean Henry S. White hosted on April 20 the long-awaited ribbon-cutting celebration to mark the dedication of the spectacular new Gary and Ann Crocker Science Center. Located within the George Thomas Building on Presidents Circle, the repurposed and expanded space is the new campus home to the College of Science’s research, education, and commerce projects and the fortunate students and faculty who bring it all to life.

• The research component draws on faculty and students from all four departments in the college—biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics & astronomy—to study the basic machinery of living cells.

• The education element provides undergraduate students with abundant laboratory opportunities and regular interaction with faculty.

• A commercial “incubator” brings together scientists in the college with people in local industries to develop ideas with commercial potential.

“This modern science hub is ready to serve new generations at the University of Utah,” says White. “The building has been completely renovated to become a world-class science education and research center.”

Lead donors of the renovation project are Gary and Ann Crocker. “Ann and I are confident that this science center will be an engine of creativity that will bless and enrich the lives of Utahns for generations to come,” says Gary, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, a research firm specializing in developing drugs for the treatment of cancer.

The project also received $34 million from the State of Utah, as well as generous donations from additional benefactors, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Kirk Ririe and Mary Jane O’Connor-Ririe, Harris Simmons and Amanda Pahnke Simmons, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Lawrence T. & Janet T. Dee Foundation, The Semnani Family Foundation, Dinesh and Kalpana Patel, Grandeur Peak Global Advisors, and numerous other friends of the College of Science.

Built in 1935 as the university’s library, the building was named for George Thomas, eighth president of the University of Utah, who served from 1921 to 1941. It later housed the Utah Museum of Natural History and then Tanner Dance. Science students began taking classes in the space in January.

“We extend our sincere appreciation to Gary and Ann for their visionary leadership for this project—and to the many generous donors who have made this inspired transformation possible,” says President Watkins. “The benefit to our entire campus community—and especially to our science students and the faculty who will learn, teach, and do research here— will extend generations into the future.”