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Ohio State announces inaugural Artist Laureate

Nyama McCarthy-Brown will enhance impact across Ohio's underserved communities

The Ohio State University has selected Nyama McCarthy-Brown as its inaugural Artist Laureate. She will begin a one-year appointment on July 1, 2023. An associate professor in the Department of Dance, she joined the university in 2018.

Nyama McCarthy-Brown

“I am incredibly excited for Nyama’s vision as our inaugural Artist Laureate,” said Lisa Florman, vice provost for the arts. “She will enhance our strategic focus on external engagement, outlined in Ohio State’s new Academic Plan, and help further integrate arts into the university’s missions of scholarship, education and service.”

As Artist Laureate, McCarthy-Brown will elevate the university’s impact by bringing arts programming to underserved communities across the state. Focusing on creating shared experiences that enrich and inform, she will engage with diverse audiences in urban, rural, suburban and metropolitan areas.

“As a community engaged researcher, I want to show communities how research relates to life and lived experiences and how research and art can inspire a better future for the next generation,” said McCarthy-Brown.

As Artist Laureate, McCarthy-Brown will create a traveling dance production inspired by her book “Skin Colored Pointes: Interviews of Women of Color in Ballet. The production, centered on themes of trailblazing, opportunity and allyship, will disrupt ideas of who gets to dance while inviting audiences to identify and demonstrate expressions of allyship and inclusion through words, movement or technology. Ohio State BFA and MFA dance students will perform in the production, supporting their development as future dancers, teachers and community practitioners.

McCarthy-Brown is a nationally recognized culturally sustaining educator; her first book, “Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Research, Theory, and Practice,” released in 2017, quickly became an anchoring text in dance education. An established scholar, she is also an active consultant and workshop facilitator for diversifying dance curricula for organizations such as the San Francisco Ballet School; Cincinnati Ballet; Enrich Chicago; Dance Educators Coalition, Minnesota; Rutgers University Dance Department; University of Buffalo; OhioDance; and Dance Education Laboratory.

“With the platform of the Artist Laureate, Dr. McCarthy-Brown’s work and impact on the community will be amplified,” wrote Charles Anderson, professor and Department of Dance chair, in his letter of support. “Her proposed creative dance project has the potential to greatly expand opportunities to learn, teach and celebrate historically marginalized dancers. Further, her project will provide our students with a community learning experience and deepen their understanding of engaged research.”

A San Francisco native, McCarthy-Brown has been an active performer, choreographer and educator for more than 20 years. In 2021, she received awards from the National Dance Education Organization and Dance Teacher Magazine for developing anti-racist dance curricula. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College, an MFA in performance and choreography from the University of Michigan, and a doctoral degree in dance studies from Temple University. 

The Artist Laureate is selected through a competitive process and will receive financial support for a 50% course release for the 2023-24 academic year as well as project funding. 

“As the flagship land-grant institution for Ohio, we are committed to making the arts accessible to all,” said Florman. “Through the Artist Laureate initiative, we will extend our already strong arts outreach, advance diverse perspectives, deepen engagement and foster understanding through the arts.”

“My vision for Ohio State’s first Artist Laureate lifts women of color, community engaged research and the dancing body,” said McCarthy-Brown. “I am grateful for this opportunity to create a performance production that will engage audience members across the state in a research process that takes various forms and is not limited to the page.”

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