Spotlight

Michelle Brewster, 2016 Public Fellow

Michele Brewster, PhD student in History, brings expertise to the Pacific Standard Time Project

The Laguna Art Museum “collects, cares for, and exhibits works of art that were created by California artists or represent the life and history of the state.” My UCI Humanities Out There (HOT) project is to provide background research for the museum’s upcoming fall 2017 exhibition, Mexico/LA: History into Art, 1821-1930, and to create lesson plans for K-12 teachers based on the exhibition.

My HOT project benefits the museum because my doctoral research of nineteenth-century California overlaps with the time period featured in the exhibition. I have the privilege of sharing knowledge of my field, working to make it accessible to the public and to grade level teachers and students. Collaborating with the director, the exhibition curator and the education curator has helped me to further shape and refine my own work. These ongoing dialogues have given my once isolated research and writing, a new vitality.

Before I began my Humanities Out There fellowship, I had very little awareness of a public forum for my work. My experience at the Laguna Art Museum has shown me that I would like to continue to be involved in the public sphere, continually thinking about the ways my work can positively impact and inform it. My HOT project at the museum has been a meaningful and enjoyable entry point. I do not believe I can fully grasp all of the benefits I have received from this work at this moment in time. Many will become apparent to me, long after my project is over. I am very fortunate and grateful to take part in a sustained exploration of public engagement with the UC Irvine Humanities Out There Program and the Laguna Art Museum.

Through the Humanities Out There Public Fellows program, six humanities graduate students interned one afternoon a week with a local cultural organization. These public fellows applied and expanded their humanities research, writing and analytical capacities – skills developed in a PhD program – in a non-profit setting. The 2016 Public Fellows were funded by individual donations to the Humanities Out There Program.  The Humanities Commons recently received a grant from the Luce Foundation to expand the Public Fellows Program in 2016-2017.