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K-State Today

March 2, 2023

Annual grant brings community and K-State together to celebrate renowned artist, Gordon Parks

Submitted by Laura Perez

Joglekar, Karlin and Leader-Picone

The Chapman Center for Rural Studies, a center of excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, announces Shreepad Joglekar, associate professor and Lindy E. Bell department head of art, Katy Karlin, professor of English, and Cameron Leader-Picone, professor of English, as recipients of the 2023 Interdisciplinary Research Grant.

Joglekar, Karlin and Leader-Picone will use the grant on their interdisciplinary project, "The Learning Tree: Still Learning." This project celebrates the work of Kansas-born photographer, writer and artist Gordon Parks through partnerships with the Gordon Parks Museum and Gordon Parks' hometown of Fort Scott. Students and community members will bring the past into the present by engaging with the rich history of African American migration and community in Kansas as seen through Gordon Parks' eyes. 

"The most exciting thing about this project, to me, is its scalability," Joglekar said. "I believe that the collaboration with the Gordon Parks Museum and the larger community of Fort Scott, initiated through this project, can be recurrent and long term. And the treasure of ideas associated with the work of Gordon Parks, which the project will dive into and revive, will enrich our students in many more way than what we can anticipate!" 

Joglekar, Karlin and Leader-Picone will receive a stipend from the Chapman Center for Rural Studies to support their interdisciplinary work. The purpose of the interdisciplinary grant is to encourage faculty to work creatively and collaboratively with scholars outside their specializations to generate insights into the dynamics of rural life through partnerships with rural Kansas communities. Through these contributions, the center celebrates the rich legacies of life and culture in the Great Plains. 

Joglekar will conduct a series of workshops for Fort Scott community members, targeting high school and community college students. Students will revisit the subject matters, including people and places, featured in Parks' 1950 photo essay "Back to Fort Scott." Parks' original work sheds light onto the ways in which the Great Migration fundamentally changed the landscape of Kansas as African Americans relocated to urban hubs, as well as the historical African American population that still thrives in Fort Scott. By creating new representations of these works, Kansans will create a dialogue with this historical moment. In addition, Karlin, Leader-Picone and undergraduate Natassja Norwood are locating living descendants of the subjects of Parks' essay to investigate the legacy of the Great Migration among the descendants of those featured in this seminal work. 

"Gordon Parks is a uniquely Kansan figure, raised by the generation of Exodusters who moved to Kansas seeking safety, education and representation, and he was a keen observer of the intricacies and contradictions of rural life," said Mary Kohn, director of the Chapman Center. "This newest Interdisciplinary Research Grant project is poised to bring his work to a new generation to broaden conversations about home, the connection to land and what it means to be Kansan." 

To learn more about the Chapman Center's annual Interdisciplinary Research Grant and previous recipients, visit the webpage.  

Information about the next round of grants will be available in late September 2024.