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University of Iowa News Release


April 13, 2007

UI Hancher Auditorium Wins 'Creative Campus Innovations' Grant

The University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium is one of eight college arts centers selected to receive a Creative Campus Innovations Grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Hancher's $148,200 grant is part of $990,500 in grants funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to strengthen the performing arts on college campuses. The eight recipients were chosen from among more than 180 preliminary proposals. Thirty organizations were invited to submit full proposals.

The Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program challenged campus-based arts presenters to integrate their programming more organically within the academic environment, embedding creative practice and dialogue within curricular-based activities, and engaging faculty, students and higher education leaders in innovative ways.

The programs funded by the grants will become the basis for a set of case studies to offer models that will be made broadly available to institutions of higher education.

The funds will enable Hancher to collaborate with the Center for Macular Degeneration (CMD) in the UI Hospitals and Clinics, the Writing Program of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, the Department of Theatre Arts and Obie Award-winning performance artist/UI alumnus Rinde Eckert to create and perform a play that explores the experience of visual impairment and vision loss.

The project builds on the collaboration of Hancher and the CMD that has provided free visual-enhancement technology to Hancher audience members with visual impairment since 2004:

The project supports the College of Medicine's goal to train more compassionate physicians. For theatre arts students the goal is to raise awareness of the connections that can be made between the arts and healthcare, broadening their thinking about their own career development.

In addition to the performances, the project will result in two video documents produced by UI Academic Technologies: a video of the production that will be used by the CMD at presentations and conferences dealing with vision impairment and loss, and a documentary about its creative process. A Web site will also be created for the project.

Eckert will collect stories from patients and families in the CMD, UI medical staff and researchers, and students and fellows in medicine, biomedical engineering, nursing and social work who are preparing for careers studying and treating eye disease.

He will then work with students and faculty in the Department of Theatre Arts to mount the play for both public performances on the University Theatres season and private performances. He will also lead workshops and discussions about the work as it evolves, with the CMD patients and families, students affiliated with the Writing Program in the Carver College of Medicine, UI Hospitals and Clinics physicians and CMD staff.

"My task will be to stand at the center of this diverse community of experiences, ideas and passions in order to orchestrate them into a work of art," Eckert explains. "I know the making of this work will inspire and improve me; I trust the work will inspire and improve those involved; I hope the work will inspire and improve the lives of those within our audience.

"This is a journey (already begun) to an unknown destination that nevertheless has a goal in mind. We can't know, as we begin, precisely where we are going.  In this, our process resembles what I assume to be the best approach to medical research: Keep the goal in mind but don't let it blind you to the signs all about you. Stay alert and you may be surprised that what you thought you were after is less important than what you found. You may find it necessary occasionally to close your eyes in order to see better, to hear, to feel your way."

Eckert, an alumnus of the UI School of Music, has performed in Hancher many times, and his work as a solo artist and with the Paul Dresher Ensemble have been commissioned and/or premiered by the auditorium, including "Slow Fire," "Pioneers," "Power Failure," "The Gardening of Thomas D" and "The Idiot Variations." He also spent a semester in residence at the Department of Theatre Arts to develop and direct "A Tale We Told the Queen," and his writing was included in the recent University Theatres world premiere of "Versailles."

In 2005 Eckert received the American Academy of Arts & Letters' prestigious Marc Blitzstein Award given to a lyricist/librettist. His work has been recognized in San Francisco with two Critics Circle and two Isadora Duncan Awards; with a special Obie Award and two Drama Desk Award Nominations in New York; and with the Eliot Norton Award in Boston for Best Production by a Large Resident Company.

Learn more at

The Association of Performing Arts Presenters is the largest national service and advocacy organization for the performing arts, with more than 1,200 members worldwide.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;