75th Anniversary Initiative
Previous Grant Spotlights
Previous Spotlights

The Luce Foundation regularly highlights a grantee on its website: to honor grantees’ work, to better acquaint potential grantees with current projects, and to provide a window into the Luce Foundation's many areas of interest. Previous spotlights follow.

September 2011: The Chinese Bridge Project at Lehigh University
July 2011: The Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion
May 2011: The Winslow Homer Studio

The Chinese Bridge Project at Lehigh University

Lehigh University's Chinese Bridge Project began in 2009, one hundred thirty years after the first Chinese students arrived at Lehigh, when the university received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation's Asia Program to "construct a series of interrelated, multifaceted, and enduring bridges between Lehigh and China—spans that are symbolic, virtual, and physical.” The project's theme was inspired by the Rainbow Bridge depicted in the twelfth-century Song dynasty scroll Along the River During the Qingming Festival. This bridge incorporates both arch and beam in an unusual hybrid structure.

The project is an innovative, multi-year initiative crossing academic disciplines and building on the university's long-standing historical connection to China. It has supported Lehigh students' trips to Shanghai and Beijing for architectural tours, linguistic and cultural training, and a collaborative bridge-building workshop with Chinese students at Tongji University in Shanghai. An East-West design studio at Lehigh including students in architecture, engineering, computer science, and Asian studies led to the construction of a traditional "Rainbow-style" bridge on Lehigh's campus, dedicated in an April 2011 ceremony as part of Lehigh's own Qingming Festival.

Students and faculty from across the disciplines are now involved in the creation of a third, virtual bridge: a website devoted to Lehigh's Chinese Heritage. This bridge sees its reflection in the expansion of Chinese studies at Lehigh, including the creation of permanent new courses, enhanced instruction in Chinese language and culture, and the fall 2011 launch of a Chinese major.

The next phase of the program envisions the student-led construction of a pavilion and Chinese-style garden landscape on Lehigh's campus, and continued engagement with China for Lehigh faculty and students in the sciences and engineering as well as in the humanities and social sciences, all promoting Lehigh's ultimate commitment to international and interdisciplinary education. As China Railway Bridge senior engineer Tang Huan Cheng states in the Chinese Bridge Project publication, "Bridges have always helped bring people together. You can see it today. People from both sides of the river are now more closely connected. But the rainbow arch is also a bridge across time, from the present to the past."

(Video: Steven Lichak, Media Production Specialist, Lehigh University)

The Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion

The Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion at Columbia University (CDTR) was founded in 2006, when Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to develop a new program in international affairs and religion. CDTR’s overarching goals are to identify how tolerance between religious and secular actors can be better theorized, and to aid in the development of new strategies for promoting religious-secular tolerance. CDTR works toward building a new subfield of religion and international affairs, in which novel research and policy solutions can be formulated.

To foster the development of young academics and practitioners in this subfield, the Center supports graduate courses, post-doctoral training, and student-faculty research initiatives. CDTR also hosts fifty events each year—ranging from intimate closed meetings to widely-attended international conferences—in order to promote research networks on religion and politics.

In 2009, the Foundation approved a grant to help CTDR as it carries out six interrelated projects under the leadership of Alfred Stepan, professor of government and former dean of SIPA. The projects focus on: religion and human rights pragmatism; global debates on Muslim women’s rights and activism; sacred spaces and conflict resolution; secularism in non-Christian societies; democracy and religion; and religious minorities at risk. Many of these projects will produce academic volumes, as well as web-based educational materials that will be posted on CDTR’s website, among other places.

While global in scope, CDTR’s work has particularly focused on Islam and international affairs, on variants of secularism, and on how these variants have affected coexistence in different states. One of CDTR’s strengths is its broad mandate – democracy, toleration, and religion – which allows it to respond nimbly to world events. In light of the ongoing movements throughout the Middle East, CDTR’s Director, Alfred Stepan met with activists and interim leaders in Egypt and Tunisia to discuss democratization movements over the last thirty years and why they succeeded or failed. In New York, CDTR has sought out and sponsored lectures from scholars with first-hand knowledge of these movements and has begun research into the roles of religion and secularism in the democratization processes in Egypt and Tunisia.

The Winslow Homer Studio

This month's Spotlight focused on The Winslow Homer Studio at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME.

The centrality of Winslow Homer to American visual culture is undisputed. As the foremost sketch artist of the Civil War, his vision of the conflict informed the way Americans understood the hostilities both at the time and for generations to come. Subsequently turning to painting, Homer’s visions of quiet old New England customs and explorations of African-American culture engendered a visual conversation of reconciliation that provided common symbols for the expanding nation. The apogee of Homer’s career, however, came in the last decades of the nineteenth century at Prouts Neck. Immediately after converting his family’s carriage house to a studio in 1883, he produced a series of paintings on local themes that foreshadowed two decades of artistic brilliance. Homer’s late paintings at Prouts Neck are poems of place that directed national attention to the rocky coast of Maine, explored the awe-inspiring gestures of waves, and engendered a place for the environment in modern American thought.

The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) purchased the property in Prouts Neck from Homer’s heirs in 2006. The PMA is currently engaged in a major campaign to raise $10.5 million to preserve and interpret this National Historic Landmark, which gave rise to Homer’s most famous images, and to continue the relationship that connects the institution to the artist.

The Campaign concludes in September of 2012 with the exhibition Weatherbeaten: The Late Paintings of Winslow Homer, curated by Thomas Denenberg, PhD, and the opening of the Winslow Homer Studio on Prouts Neck. The Luce Foundation has awarded a grant of $200,000 to support the Weatherbeaten exhibition and catalogue.

As part of its American Art Renewal Fund initiative, the Luce Foundation also approved a grant of $85,000 toward the support of the chief curator’s position.

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