Dr. Heidi Powell has been to Iceland, Cuba, Austria and New Zealand. Later this year, she’ll go to Italy and China. For now though, she’s in Antigua, Guatemala.
“I’m really interested in cultural continuity and cultural confluence,” she said, “which basically means that I want to see how culture is perpetuated through the arts and how art processes change over time and why and under whose influence.”
Through her research, the SAAH assistant professor and program director wants people to understand how the arts impact identity and notions of identity embedded in culture.
“In other words, when we see something like a certain pattern or we see certain fabrics, we automatically look and say, ‘Oh those are from a specific geography,’ because it’s part of the identity of that place or people,” she said.
She said Iceland’s art-making relates to its geography, while Cuba’s centers around homeland.
“They really look at the arts as a function of society and to make people happy,” she said.
Austria’s art has political themes, but in New Zealand , the art revolves around stories and history and Maori culture.
“Each place and culture has a different way of perpetuating their identity through their arts practice,” she said. “With Guatemala, it’s about their textiles, the conquest, and it’s about their material culture.”
While she has plenty going on now and in the coming months, she won’t be slowing down any time soon.
“I have been pursuing research onsite more consistently the past two years and it is ongoing,” she said. “Its focus has been morphing over time about community arts practice and cultural memory and continuity, emphasizing the focus of the collaborative community.”
In March, she held three different presentations for the National Art Education Association, and in May, her work will be featured in an exhibition called Pentavalence at the AVA Community Art Center in Gillette, Wyoming.
Also beginning in May and lasting the duration of the Summer A semester, Powell will be collaboratively teaching a course at Florence University of the Arts called Culture Mapping in Creative Domains with Dr. Michelle Tillander.
In July, she’ll head to Shanghai’s Foreign Studies University to teach on social and cultural arts mapping for local culture.
Traveling plays a large role in Powell’s research, and she attributes this, as well as her interest in different cultures, to moving around often while growing up.
“I moved 24 times before I graduated from high school and lived in four other countries,” she said. “I grew up with that mindset of globalization and cultural exploration.”