La Tanya Autry has always felt a responsibility to share the results of her research on lynching memorials by giving public presentations in person and via social media, blogs and other formats.
Now, the University of Delaware doctoral student in art history has the opportunity to expand her outreach skills by participating in the 2011 Imagining America PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) Fellowship program. One of 12 PAGE fellows selected nationwide, Autry will attend a Fellows Summit and the 2011 Imagining America national conference, both held in September in Minnesota.
The PAGE program also will partner the new fellows with senior scholars to serve as mentors, as well as encouraging peer mentoring among the Imagining America national network of colleges and universities. In addition, each fellow agrees to take part in a yearlong working group to promote collaborative art, teaching, writing or research projects.
"The PAGE fellowship will help me to develop my outreach skills and will train me to work collaboratively," says Autry, adding that she's admired the program for some time. "I look forward to meeting students, faculty and other professionals who are also passionate about the arts, community engagement and social justice."
While studying for her master's degree in art history at UD, which she received in 2009, Autry became interested in the photographs and postcards that were often produced during lynchings of African Americans that occurred in America, primarily from the 1880s through the 1930s. Her research later expanded to encompass memorials that were later created to commemorate these incidents of mob violence and to remember the victims.
Lynchings were horrific acts, she says, but the memorials tell an important story: "These memorials can be small or large, but if they're respectful of the history, then they can be a starting point for public education and discussion."
Autry has already been honing her outreach skills. Two summers ago, she was one of 12 graduate students who participated in UD's Public Engagement in Material Culture Institute (PEMCI), a two-week workshop in which they learned how to use accessible language and new digital technologies to involve and inspire the public in their research.
Among other activities at the institute, the students practiced delivering informal talks, giving sound bites for a quick interview and explaining their research to a media professional while being videotaped for a later critique. They also were mentored during the academic year, continuing to interact with the public through presentations to undergraduate classes, in local community organizations, at museums and in a course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UD.
"PEMCI gave me a great start," Autry said. "When I participated in [the summer program], I learned many public engagement methods that I'm using today. …I'm very thankful to the many faculty members who have helped me to improve in my studies and encouraged me to share what I'm learning with others."
PAGE, which began in 2003, is Imagining America's program for early career scholars in the arts, humanities and design who are engaged in public outreach. Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life is a consortium of colleges and universities that supports public scholarship and practice.