The family of Alphonso W. Grant have come together with the School of Art and the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to establish a memorial award in honor of the beloved endowed assistant professor of art education and affiliate faculty in African and African American studies, political science and gender studies.
Grant passed away in December 2020 due to a heart attack at his home in Fayetteville. He was a beloved son, brother, uncle, friend, scholar and educator who forever changed the lives of those he touched with his exceptional intellect, passion, leadership in diversity and love he shared for family, friends, colleagues, students and life.
“Alphonso was a wonderful colleague and person, as well as a passionate educator. He was a true advocate for and dedicated mentor to so many of our students and his loss is still very much felt across our college and campus,” said Todd Shields, dean of Fulbright College. “It is our honor to establish a memorial award to continue his legacy and the incredible work he did to help create a new generation of art educators.”
The Alphonso W. Grant Memorial Award in Art Education will provide support for School of Art students studying art education with an interest in contributing to a diverse educational environment.
“While demographic diversity across Arkansas and the United States increases, there continue to be racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic disparities in artist/teacher representation at all educational levels,” said Angela LaPorte, program director and professor of art education. “This scholarship will extend the urgent work that our dear colleague, Alphonso, initiated at the University of Arkansas. It will support the diversification of artists/educators by eliminating the financial barrier and promoting a more equitable student representation in the School of Art.”
Grant had a proven commitment to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary ways of knowing and representing key issues and aspects of the world, grounded in diversity, equity, inclusion and dismantling anti-Blackness.
He was a scholar and valued contributor to many academic disciplines, both utilizing and contributing to theories of Africana studies, Black existentialism, critical pedagogy, critical race theory, curriculum theory, pragmatism, queer theory, racial identity politics, semiotics, the brother on the down low and visual culture studies.
Grant led a life of service and made a lifelong impression on the students he mentored within the School of Art, across campus and for the Black male athletes for the U of A’s Athletic Departments’ iBelieve Initiative. In addition, he as a leader with the U of A Vice Chancellor’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and was active with the diversity committee within the School of Art.
“Dr. Grant was a cherished diversity leader across the school, college and campus,” said Gerry Snyder, executive director of the School of Art. “He led by example. His professorship was visionary infused with an enthusiasm for coaching all he encountered to be better and to connect diversity, equity and inclusion into every part of our lives.”
The research and work of Grant was respected and celebrated in his field. He was a W.E.B DuBois scholar, he was selected as a recipient of the 2014-15 Harold F. Martin graduate assistant outstanding teacher award, and as a recipient of the 2016 Academic Achievement award for The Presidents Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer Equity Group at Penn State.
“Continuing the critical work of Dr. Grant and encompassing his spirit of tenacity and determination are priorities near to our hearts,” said Marty Maxwell Lane, director of the School of Art and associate professor of graphic design. “We miss his friendship, intellect and voice. He was a change agent, and this award is designed to be a change agent for students.”
Investing in the lives of students was a significant part of Grant’s life. They felt his support and encouragement, and they accepted his challenge for them to dig deeper.
Many students reference a common phrase he shared in classes: “It takes everyone’s voice.”
“He instilled the confidence to own all aspects of ourselves and make our voices heard,” said Trinity Kai, Master of Fine Arts alumna. “He created a safe space for everyone and in his classroom, you knew he saw you, he heard you, you matter and your experiences are valid.”
The memorial award serves to continue the investment Grant began with students and making sure all voices are heard.
“Dr. Grant was a brilliant scholar, a talented educator, a generous mentor and a kind and supportive friend,” said Christopher Schulte, assistant director of the School of Art and endowed associate professor of art education. “His presence remains in all that we do and that we aspire to realize in the School of Art. He is a daily reminder to take seriously the relationships we have in our lives and the extent to which we manage to hold space for others, especially those whose lives and experiences are different from our own. The Alphonso W. Grant Memorial Award in Art Education intimately embodies this commitment.”
The Alphonso W. Grant Memorial Award in Art Education will become fully endowed when it reaches a minimum of $25,000 in contributions, which means the award will be able to provide support in perpetuity.
Donations to support the endowment of the Alphonso W. Grant Memorial Award in Art Education can be made by visiting the fund online. U of A employees are also eligible to donate to the fund through payroll deductions.
Checks can also be made out to the University of Arkansas Foundation, with the award name noted in the memo and mailed to: University of Arkansas, Attn: Gift Services, 1002 W. Maple St., Fayetteville, AR 72701.
For more information about gifts of stock, payroll deductions or an employee matching program, please contact Melody Kouchehbagh at [email protected]