Art History Professor Receives Tyson Fellowship at Crystal Bridges Museum

By Laila Rashid, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
January 24, 2013

Jason WeemsThe Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, was opened to the public in November of 2011. It was founded by Alice Walton, philanthropist and daughter of the late Wal-mart founder Sam Walton, in the hope that it will expand public access to art resources and become a center for art historical research. It is the only museum in the Midwest singularly devoted to the exhibition and study of American art. Its permanent collection has gained international recognition and includes over five centuries of artwork by artists ranging from John Singleton Copley  to Georgia O’Keeffe and Kerry James Marshall.

In September of last year, Tyson Foods, Inc. and the Tyson Family announced their five million dollar gift to establish the Tyson Scholars of American Art and the Don Tyson Prize at Crystal Bridges. The former is a research fellowship  program that will allow scholars the means to produce innovative new scholarship on American art; the latter is an award to recognize a lifetime achievement by individuals working in the Americanist field.

Dr. Jason Weems, assistant professor in the department of the history of art, is one of the three scholars (two senior level, one pre-doctoral) selected by the museum to serve as a Tyson Scholar in the fellowship program’s inaugural year. His area of research expertise—American art and visual culture from the colonial to the present—mirrors the very essence/subject of the museum itself. With this fellowship, Dr. Weems will complete his book manuscript, entitled “Barnstorming the Prairies: Aerial Vision and Modernity in Rural America, 1920-1940” (University of Minnesota Press), which explores the development of modern aerial looking and its effect on visual expression during the interwar years. He also plans to complete an article addressing the World War Two propaganda imagery of Regionalist artist Thomas Hart Benton and to research on a collection of Great Depression-era labor prints recently acquired by Crystal Bridges.

Weems is excited by the opportunity the new Tyson Scholar’s program offers both for his work and for American art. “Crystal Bridges represents a commitment to bringing new eyes—and new ideas—to the study and understanding of American art. Rarely does a scholar get the chance to help shape a program that will have a such a significant impact on their field.”        

A student of both art history and history, Dr. Weems graduated with high honors from the University of Iowa and he went on to receive both his masters and doctorate in American art from Stanford. His work has been published by leading journals in art art history and across the humanities, and also appears in multiple edited volumes and exhibition catalogues. This fellowship falls into a long list of others he has previously earned.

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