Carnegie Mellon University

Fund for Research and Creativity

The Fund for Research and Creativity (FRC) was established in 2015 by the president of Carnegie Mellon and supplemented by the College of Fine Arts to support research and creative projects across CFA. The primary impetus behind its creation was to offer an avenue of support because of dwindling funding sources in the governmental, corporate, philanthropic or private sectors for the arts.

FRC funding is available to all full-time faculty members within the College of Fine Arts. Once a year, the FRC committee evaluates applications and can distribute up to $40,000 in awards. Applications are accepted annually from January 15 through February 15. Award announcements are made April 2.

Selection Criteria

Proposals are competitively evaluated based on:

  • The vision, originality, quality and potential impact of the proposed project
  • The professional, artistic and/or technical capabilities of the applicant(s)
  • The feasibility of the project
  • The potential impact of our funding and services on the project and for the artist(s) or researcher(s)
  • The extent to which the proposed work is unable to secure funding from traditional sources (e.g., private foundations, government agencies, corporations or private individuals), as argued by the applicant(s). In this case the applicant(s) are asked to explain the attempts made to seek funding from other sources and why there is difficulty in securing funding for the proposed project.

Note: The Berkman Faculty Development Fund was established to help support projects that would otherwise be difficult to fund. This fund is directed primarily to junior faculty whose access to external support is less well-developed, and to faculty working in chronically underfunded areas. In cases where a specific need is well-documented, grants may be made to senior faculty and those working in fields that more easily attract outside support. We encourage all full-time faculty to consider applying for Berkman Fund support.

All applications must be submitted between January 15 through February 15 via our online application site (when you apply, you will notice that the site is hosted by the School of Art in support of this college activity; it, however, has restricted access). Your application is your chance to tell us about your proposed project, why it's interesting and how you plan to use the grant. Your finished application will include:

  • A full proposal, following the criteria provided (provide a proposal that is written in clear layman's language (i.e., for someone with no knowledge of your project and area of academic pursuit)
  • A detailed budget for the project
  • Pertinent supporting materials, including prior work samples, preliminary research, etc.

Applicants can request FRC support to obtain research materials, hire student assistants or outside contractors, purchase equipment, rent time in a recording studio, etc., as required to create the work. Collaborative projects are welcome, and partnerships across disciplines are encouraged. Projects are to be primarily faculty research projects. This grant is NOT intended to:

  • Fund student research that is being overseen by faculty
  • Support initiatives that are primarily pedagogical in nature (research projects that have a pedagogical element are welcome, but if your project is primarily aimed at course development or classroom innovation, then the Wimmer Faculty Fellows Grant and other resources aimed at teaching would be more appropriate funding sources)
  • Support symposia, conference or lecture series development
  • Support conference fees or travel expenses, except where such travel is an integral part of making and/or realizing a project supported by the fund
  • Support computer hardware or equipment that can be obtained through other funding venues such as departmental funds, startup accounts or external sources of funding. If you are requesting funding for computer hardware or equipment, you must clearly explain the need and use related to your proposal and what becomes of the computer hardware/equipment after your project has concluded.

Grants are given as cash awards for materials and supplies related to your project only, and will not affect the financial aid of students employed on the project. The IP rights of finished work will remain with the scholar(s) or artist(s).

Recipients of FRC grants from previous award cycles are eligible to apply for new or repeat funding, on the strict condition that all reporting requirements for prior support have been satisfactorily met.

Reporting Requirements

Final reports are due within three months of project completion and should include the following:

  • A narrative summarizing the project's process and outcome
  • Documentation of the supported project, which could include any combination of photographs, video and/or audio recordings. Please note that videos should be delivered as high-resolution movie files (.mov, .avi, .mp4, etc.) and not as links to streaming services such as YouTube or Vimeo.
  • A financial report itemizing all income and expenses for the project

Wherever the works are exhibited, it is to be noted that "The work was supported in part by funding from the College of Fine Arts Fund for Research and Creativity" as part of the work's provenance.

A request for a public presentation or exhibition of your work during the academic year may be made upon its completion. It is the intention for these outcomes to live on a CFA website to celebrate the ongoing work of faculty recipients of the grant.

FRC committee members

  • Senior Associate Dean, Eric Anderson (Chair)*
  • Associate Head of Architecture, Mary-Lou Arscott*
  • Faculty Administrative Rep for Art, Clayton Merrell*
  • Associate Head of Design, Stephen Stadelmeier*
  • Associate Head of Drama, Richard Block*
  • Associate Head of Music, Ken Keeling*
  • Director of Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Golan Levin

Appointed faculty member from each school:

  • Architecture, Gerard Damiani (2018-2019)
  • Art, Paolo Pedercini (2018-2019)
  • Design, Kyuha Shim (2018-2019)
  • Drama, Rob Thomson* (2018)
  • Music, Daniel Teadt* (2018)

Past committee members:

  • Architecture, Jeremy Ficca* (2016-2017)
  • Art, Suzie Silver* (2016-2017)
  • Design, Peter Scupelli* (2016-2017)
  • Drama, Rob Thomson* (2016-2017)
  • Music, Daniel Teadt* (2016-2017)

*Inaugural committee members

For questions, contact Eric Anderson: ea@cmu.edu

2018 FRC Recipients

Invasive Species

Super Invaders is a new collaboration with Nicole Heller, an ecologist and curator of the Anthropocene at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I have long used weeds and landscape in my drawings, prints and installations; with Dr. Heller, the museum's botanical, invertebrate and vertebrate collections will form the basis of new work on invasive species. Together, we will lead a series of experimental tours in the landscape as well as create a portfolio of etchings and letterpress prints. Our project considers how we coexist with other creatures and plants and the ways we change each other.

Kim Beck, School of Art; and Nicole Heller, museum fellow; curator of the Anthropocene at Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Towards Sentient Matter: Architecture as a Mood Ring

This research explores interactions between material form and its embedded electromechanical controls, while using human emotiveness as an activation of change in material and spatial character. Contemporary advances in technology shape interactions between organic and inorganic systems and their mutual formation. Both physical and human matter are open to design. Based on last year's work, we propose to build a full-scale functioning prototype using thermal, tactile and thermochromic responses guided by embedded distributed control systems that change in response to human physiology and thought.

Dana Cupkova and Daragh Byrne, CMU Architecture

Snob Bog

Snob Bog is a series of interconnected site-specific animations. It will interpret ideas put forward in William A Gamson's "Simulated Societies" to create pointedly humorous, animated vignettes that reveal social and political hierarchies in contemporary life. Visual recognition software will be used to identify common locations in grocery stores that will trigger animated events for the viewer using a cell phone or other mobile device.

James Duesing, School of Art, and Jessica Hodgins, CMU Computer Science

Web Platform for an Atlas of Commoning

"An Atlas of Commoning" is a traveling exhibition co-curated by Stefan Gruber and ARCH+ magazine for ifa. The requested funding is for developing a web platform that will make the Atlas of case studies featured in the exhibition accessible to a global audience. The platform is conceived as growing and open knowledge archive, producing an invaluable documentation of local grassroots projects from all over the world. It will serve as a site for international exchange and reciprocal knowledge production, in short, a space of commoning.

Stefan Gruber, School of Architecture; Anh-Linh Ngo, editor in Chief of ARCH+ magazine; and Sabina Klemm, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)

Looking at You

LOOKING AT YOU is an immersive techno-noir music theater piece confronting the issue of privacy in a digitized age and the question of how loss of privacy could transform us as a global culture. Born of a collaboration between faculty from the CMU School of Drama and the CMU Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory, it tells a story of government surveillance and whistleblowing while using digital tools created to data-mine the information of spectators during the show and feed it back to them in real time.

Rob Handel, School of Drama; Alessandro Acquisti, Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy

The Haptic Enviro-Sensing Metronome: An Exploration into the Felt Experience

The Haptic Enviro-Sensing Metronome (HESM) is an exploration into the felt experience and the 'nudgability' of the participating actor. Using touch over sound or sight, we intend to lead the user through an event with a pulse that will ebb and flow in reaction to the environment by using environmental sensing, machine learning and refined human-computer interaction. The HESM is an investigation into the power of touch, the human desire for harmony with our surroundings, and the challenge to machine learning to anticipate and foster this ideal.

Stephen Neely, School of Music; Gus Xia, Ph.D., Co-PI, Computer Science NYU Shanghai; Andrea Weinstein, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh; Curtis Boirum, Robotics Institute Carnegie Mellon University; Nicholas Pourazima, master's student in Music Technology

The Mermaid Genome Project

Mermaids have historically represented the edge of what is knowable. They appear in times of uncertainty when our capacity to act on the world outpaces our understanding of it, whether we sail too far out to sea, or choose to believe beyond the bounds of evidence. I will use contemporary genomic techniques to create a plausible, though ultimately flawed, complete DNA sequence of a mermaid: a hallucination designed to be viewed with the tools of 21st century science. It will engage viewers in a conversation about how we evaluate truth.

Richard Pell, School of Art; Benjamin Vernot, Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Fred Gould, professor of Agriculture, North Carolina State University, Center for Genomics and Society

The Bear with a Boy's Shadow: Experimental Narratives in Spatial Cinema

The Poyais Group is creating an immersive cinemagraphic narrative that tells the story of a town in an unknown time and place. In this town, the citizenry is terrorized by a bear. Someone notices that the bear has the shadow of a boy. Then they must track down which boy it is and reason with him. This story will be experienced by audiences in both real and virtual spaces using the technology of spatial cinema. It will be presented in galleries using multi-channel video projection systems and in virtual spaces using Virtual Reality (VR) systems.

Jesse Stiles, School of Music; Olivia Robinson, Carnegie Mellon University (IDeATe adjunct instructor); Jesse Ball, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Edge of the Field (Carnegie International)

This collaborative art project will occur during the upcoming 57th edition of the Carnegie International. We will use our invitation to this highly selective exhibition as a loophole to invert the usual system of selection and inclusion. Throughout the exhibition we will utilize the museum as a studio for the manifestation and distribution of approximately 10,000 artworks that have been recorded to be rejected from prior Carnegie International exhibitions. The project imagines and enacts the invisible mountain of labor that lies below the tip what enters through the gates of high culture.

Jon Rubin, School of Art; Lenka Clayton, artist

Daniel Cardoso-Llach
Title: Soft Reconstruction

Soft reconstruction proposes a series of software reconstructions of some of the earliest algorithms used in design, including the "Coons Patch" and Bezier's B-Spline curves. Beyond visual representations, these interactive objects will offer access to forgotten sensual, material and technical aspects of early computational design techniques and interfaces. The interactive pieces will be displayed in the exhibition "Designing the Computational Image / Imagining Computational Design" in the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2017.


Dana Cupkova and Daragh Byrne
Title: Mind-Controlling Sentience: Non-deformable Responsiveness to Human Physiology

This research explores interactions between material form and its embedded electromechanical controls, while using human physiology and emotiveness as an activation of change in material character. Contemporary advances in technology shape interactions between organic and inorganic systems and their mutual formation. Both physical and human matter are open to design. We will build series of complex architectural forms — using thermal, tactile and thermochromic responses guided by embedded distributed control system — that change their effect and microclimate in response to human thought.


Dan Lockton
Title: Electric Acoustic

What does energy sound like? Electric Acoustic proposes a mobile, interactive, ambient installation that sonifies, in real time, electricity use of appliances in the built environment, and the current electricity generation mix based on location. Initial investigations of people's imaginaries around energy, fossil fuels and renewables, and how these might translate into sound, will feed into the development of the exhibit, which aims to explore the potential of increasing public understanding of energy and its impacts through turning 'invisible' everyday phenomena into something audible.


Kyuha Shim and Eddy Man Kim
Title: Dimentional Typography in Virtual Reality

There is a significant amount of research from creative disciplines on Virtual Reality (VR), yet there has not been any practice-based research that focuses on finding a methodology for communication design that is applicable to the subject environment. The project explores immersive typography and aims to contribute to scholarship about the implications of virtual reality technologies on design for computing platforms. The outcomes include literature review, interviews and an exhibition of work, and a comprehensive publication online and in print.


Lawrence Shea
Title: Ghosts in the Machine

Ghosts in the Machine is a project exploring how rapidly developing phone-based technologies such as augmented reality and location based interactivity can be used to create unique, historically rich and artistically engaging experiences at multiple sites across the city. The project's hypothesis is that these tools allow higher levels of complexity in storytelling, ideally merging content-rich information with a place to create a new spatialized narrative form. This project earnestly strives to turn mere "information" back into meaning through our innate wayfinding and placemaking capacities.


Susan Tsu
Title: Innovative Costume: The Next Generation ,An Exhibition and Chronicle of Costume D

I am chief international curator for a major international exhibition of student and emerging designers' work entitled Innovative Costume: The Next Generation, working with Igor Roussanoff; artistic director; and the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum in Moscow, Russia. The exhibition will premiere in Moscow in June 2019, and tour the world. It will be the first exhibition of its kind chronicling and documenting the work of the world's most creative young designers. A website and comprehensive exhibition catalogue will be developed to share and preserve the work as a record and teaching tool.


Reza Vali
Title: The Isfahân Project

The Isfahân Project is a CD production project of the recordings of recent chamber works for string quartet by Reza Vali. The compositions on the CD will be recorded in Pittsburgh by Carpe Diem String Quartet.

Joshua Bard and Richard Tursky
Title: Through Thick and Thin: Recovering the Craft of Architectural Plaster

Through Thick and Thin proposes the design, fabrication and installation of a robotically plastered exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture, pending final CMoA approval. The Carnegie Museum curates one of the country's few remaining collections of cast plaster antiquities and provides a unique venue to exhibit contemporary uses of robotic technology to augment the nearly forgotten craft of applied architectural plaster.


Manson Caden
Title: Opacity

Opacity is a research project and live mediated performance developed around the conceptual framework of the "interface," specifically the threat of increasing occultation of the interface and the intermediation of algorithms between the real and the experienced. Opacity investigates topics of representation, liberty, control, surveillance, liveness, networks and political resistance.


Ali Momeni
Title: Transforming Mobile Phones into Personal Electroacoustic Musical Instruments

This proposal intends to create four exemplar functional prototypes of musical instruments that combine an acoustically functional sculptural object, with real-time interactive software running on a mobile phone. Each instrument is based on a distinct mode of gestural interaction: tapping, rubbing, plucking and blowing. All instruments will be low cost, reproducible by anyone with access to a maker space, and built around the pervasive iOS and Android mobile computing platforms. These prototypes will allow Momeni to secure further funding through crowdsourcing and the Technology Transfer Office.


Sarah Pickett
Title: The Roots of Music and Sound in Shakespeare: An Interactive Installation

This project will involve research into the early use of sound and music in Shakespeare's plays during the Elizabethan era. The project will also include a performance/installation component utilizing the First Folio text of Hamlet that will allow the user to interact with the text and sound in a live setting. I hope to bring sound to life in a way that ignites the audience’s imagination and gives a sense of what the experience might have been. In addition to highlighting the historical importance of sound, the project will also show how this translates to contemporary productions.


Reza Vali
Title: The Arghonoon Project

The main objective of the Arghonoon Project is to develop a computer-based keyboard instrument with the following capabilities:

  • Able to produce the sounds of Persian traditional instruments.
  • Able to produce the sounds of Persian folk instruments.
  • Precisely employs the Pythagorean tuning system of Persian and Middle Eastern music, with support for alternate tuning systems.
  • Provide the ability to use existing sound libraries of Western European instruments tuned to Persian/Middle Eastern tuning systems with support for alternate tuning systems.

Angela Washko
Title: The Game: The Game

The Game: The Game will be an independent video game that dives deeper into the breadth of different seduction communities, looking specifically at the five most well-known pick-up artists to create characters that will attempt to seduce the player using their signature techniques (taken directly from their instructional books). Players will explore the complexity of the construction of social behaviors around dating as well as the experience of being a woman navigating this complicated terrain. The game will be installed in an immersive environment for my solo exhibition at TRANSFER in NYC.