The William Paterson University Galleries has been approved to receive a $25,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support an exhibition investigating fashion as art.

“We are very excited that the National Endowment for the Arts has chosen to fund this project,” says Kristen Evangelista, director of the University Galleries. “This exhibit will enrich our understanding of fashion as an art form that is inherently dynamic and linked to sociocultural issues.”

Evangelista is collaborating on the interdisciplinary project with Laura T. DiSumma-Knoop, a William Paterson University assistant professor of philosophy whose research and teaching interests include the philosophy of art. “To ‘fashion’ as a verb is to interrogate oneself and to examine the daily aesthetic practices that are necessary for the establishment of our identities, communities, and values,” says DiSumma-Knoop.

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The exhibition, Fashion is a Verb: Art, Performance, and Identity (working title), planned for fall 2020, will be co-curated by Evangelista and DiSumma-Knoop and is expected to feature photographs, textiles, and installations by artists who may include Lisa Anne Auerbach, ORLAN, Yelaine Rodriguez, Cindy Sherman, and Jean Shin. This exhibit will reveal that fashion is not just a consumer object, but an artistic vehicle often connected to individual and social identity, and will investigate fashion as an interactive performance.

As part of the project, the University Galleries will partner with the Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, one of the leading research institutes that promotes research at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy to conduct an experimental interdisciplinary study on the relation between fashion and identity and the perception of style. Exhibit visitors will be invited to complete a survey about their own fashion choices. The study will reveal the impact of fashion choices relative to opinions on morals, politics, and food preferences, among others. In conjunction with the exhibition, additional programs may include artist talks, workshops, and panel discussions.

Evangelista is the director of the University Galleries at William Paterson University. She previously organized exhibitions at arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area including the San Jose Museum of Art, Southern Exposure and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. She received a BA in art history and women’s studies from Wesleyan University, and an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. She has also authored essays for exhibition publications and was a contributing writer for Art Ltd., a West Coast magazine focused on art and design. She currently serves on the board of the New Jersey Association of Museums.

DiSumma-Knoop conducts research on narrative theory, the philosophy of motion pictures, everyday aesthetics, and issues related to the cognitive analysis of visual arts. Her work has been presented at numerous national and international conferences and published in journals including Contemporary Aesthetics, Aesthetics and PhenomenologyFilm and PhilosophyThe Journal of Somaesthetics, and The Philosophical Forum. She is the co-editor of the Palgrave Handbook for the Philosophy of Motion Pictures and is currently working on a book with Bloomsbury on fashion and film. She received her PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Overall, the National Endowment for the Arts has approved 1,187 grants totaling $27.3 million in the first round of fiscal year 2020 funding to support arts projects in every state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The Art Works funding category supports projects that focus on public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation; the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence; learning in the arts at all stages of life; and the integration of the arts into the fabric of community life.