Fine Arts Professor Receives D.C. Arts and Humanities Fellowship

Details #1-6 (Florida's Natural Premium Orange Juice), 2016
'Details #1-6 (Florida's Natural Premium Orange Juice),' 2016, photo by Associate Professor Dean Kessmann
October 19, 2016

Dean Kessmann, associate professor of photography and director of graduate and undergraduate studies, Fine Arts, received a 2017 Arts and Humanities Fellowship from D.C.’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Awarded annually in several categories, including theater, music, humanities, visual arts and more, the Arts and Humanities Fellowship Program offers monetary support to individual artists contributing to the city’s cultural capital.

“One of the benefits to the 2017 Arts and Humanities Fellowship is that this program is not project based, and they do not require matching funds,” Kessmann said. “There are no restrictions on the use of the funds, so artists may use them to support any current or future project.”

Kessmann will likely use the funds to move forward on a current project, Details: Utilitarian Abstraction—a subset of a related project titled Utilitarian Abstraction. The images in both bodies of work are derived from printer codes found on cardboard product packaging.

“While my interest in these printer codes developed through the banal process of breaking down cardboard boxes to be placed into the recycling bin, I soon began to consider this imagery relative to the ongoing relationship between art and consumerism,” Kessmann said. “Like the images in Utilitarian Abstraction, the final pieces in this subset carefully represent this functional imagery in order to reflect upon the ways in which the graphic design and printing industries have usurped the visual language of fine art, and vice versa.”

Two groups of prints from Details: Utilitarian Abstraction, including the image above, were also accepted into the Art Bank Collection through an Art Bank Program Grant. The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities owns works in the collection and loans them to other D.C. government agencies for display in public areas within government buildings. 

In addition to the Arts and Humanities Fellowship Program, Kessmann acknowledged the support that GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has provided for his project through two awards: the Columbian College Facilitating Fund and a Dean’s Research Chair. 

Dana Tai Soon Burgess, associate professor of dance and department chair of GW’s Department of Theatre and Dance, also received a 2017 Arts and Humanities Fellowship.