Art graduate student Ian Weaver wins prestigious $15k prize

Ian Weaver, a graduating master of fine arts candidate in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, has won a $15,000 MFA Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New York.

Weaver was one of 15 students nationwide to receive the award, and the first ever from Washington University.

Ian Weaver, *Black Power Helmet,* 2008.
Ian Weaver, *Black Power Helmet,* 2008. Steel, plaster and black satin spray paint, approx. 18″x9″x9″. From the *2008 MFA Thesis Exhibition.* Courtesy of the artist.

Though primarily a painter and printmaker, the Chicago native recently has focused on multimedia installations informed by anthropology and archaeology, as well as by African-American and European history.

“A Partial History of the Black Bottom Community” — currently featured in the Sam Fox School’s 2008 MFA Thesis Exhibition — is comprised of 11 works in a variety of media that together form a kind of fictionalized account of Chicago’s Black Bottom neighborhood. The historically African-American enclave, where Weaver’s mother grew up, was located just southwest of the Loop but in the late 1950s was bulldozed to make room for the Dan Ryan Expressway.

“I wanted to marry an accepted historical format, the educational museum, with the story of my mom’s community,” said Weaver, adding that he also created museum-style signage and an audio commentary. The idea is to construct a convincing yet fractured and nonlinear history that subverts established historical narratives while also highlighting their frequent omissions.

“I have approached this re-imagining of history as a process of visual layering,” he said. “Disparate objects, artifacts, documents and ephemera gain their power within the context of the larger project. They tell a story that occupies a certain time period, but travels backward and forward, into and out of our own time.”

Prior to coming to WUSTL, Weaver earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Columbia College in Chicago and has shown his work in many of the city’s premier alternative exhibition spaces, including The Riverside Arts Center, the Hyde Park Art Center and Anchor Graphics. Earlier this spring, the Packer Schopf Gallery featured a series of trompe l’oeil paintings based on birth certificates, divorce decrees and other family documents.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation was established shortly after the death of Joan Mitchell, a renowned abstract painter, in 1992. The foundation strives to aid and assist the needs of contemporary artists and to demonstrate that painting and sculpture are significant cultural necessities.

The MFA Grant Program was created in 1997 to help recent graduates further their artistic careers and to aid the transition from academic to professional studio work. To date the foundation has awarded 133 MFA Grants, which may be used for anything art-related.

The MFA Thesis Exhibition remains on view through July 21 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. For more information, call 935-4523 or visit