Art student Weaver wins prestigious MFA Grant

Ian Weaver, who earned a master of fine arts degree from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts in May, 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.

One of Ian Weaver’s works on display in the MFA Thesis Exhibition at Kemper is “Black Power Helmet” (2008).

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

“A Partial History of the Black Bottom Community” — on display in the Sam Fox School’s 2008 MFA Thesis Exhibition — is composed of 11 works in a variety of media that together form a 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,” Weaver said, 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. This past 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 in 1992 shortly after the death of Joan Mitchell, a renowned abstract painter. 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 next Monday at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. For more information, call 935-4523 or visit