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Interview with Unsung Heroes Exhibition Creator Kiya Green

Kiya Green, a Modern Dance and World Languages & Culture double-major, recently held the U of U Black Faculty & Staff Association research internship. She conducted original research about the history of diversity within the School of Dance at the University of Utah and uncovered the impactful contemporary story of Dr. Joselli Deans (the first Black ballet professor at the U of U) as well as heroic acts of graduate students Alex Barbier and Irishia Hubbard.

Kiya’s research is currently being shown as part of the University of Utah’s Unsung Heroes exhibition on level 1 at Marriott Library. The exhibition will be up until April 1st, 2024. This interview with Librarian Allyson Mower shows how and why Kiya decided to design and embark on this research.

What led you to apply for the internship and conduct this research?

My academic advisor (shoutout Olivia Rose Davis) sent the application to me and I was fortunate enough to make the deadline and be accepted as the Fall 2023 internship student. In the early stages of my work in the internship, I really did not want to fall back and conduct research on something that would be “easy” for me like Dance. I found myself circling back to the School of Dance at the University many times and my internship mentors Shavauna Munster and Rachel Ernst encouraged me to pursue research on the subject I was interested in, even if it did appear “easy” for me to choose and talk about. Going forward with that advice, I decided to do my research on the faculty of color in the School of Dance and their experience within the School.

What was the most surprising aspect you learned?

I definitely could not narrow this down to one answer but I can narrow it down to two. One surprising thing I learned was just the amount of resources we have at our fingertips as University students. Whether it was learning about the library’s many resources or learning about the resource of the archives that we can access, a lot of the articles I read through were from those two places. Another surprising thing I learned was something a current School of Dance faculty member told me and it was that at one point in its history, half of the faculty in the Modern department were people of color and there was a portion of the student body that were people of color as well. This was so shocking to me because in my time at the University of Utah I have been one of few faculty and students that were people of color, so it was interesting to see the changes that have happened over time.

This year’s theme for Black History month is African Americans and the Arts. There are so many wonderful Utah Black artists like Katlyn Addison, Andrea Hardeman, Rio Cortez, Joe McQueen. How do you see your own art and research contributing to this legacy?

When I went into the archive, I found little information on the many faculty members who were people of color in the School of Dance’s history. It was very difficult for me to find information when it was not there to be found, but my mentors helped me to realize that when you are conducting research rarely is it straightforward or easily accessible. Towards the end of my internship, my project really started to not so much be about what I found but more about what I did not find and why that may be. I believe my work will just be one more resource for people to use in their future research but also to address the silence around those who deserve recognition.

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