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Joanna Grabski is Director of the School of Art and Professor of Art History. Prior to her appointment at Arizona State University, she held faculty and leadership positions at Denison University, including serving as Chair of Art History and Visual Culture as well as Director of the Grand Challenge Initiative and the Internationalization Innovation Initiative. She earned her Ph.D. in Art History and African Studies from Indiana University.
Focusing on artists, art institutions, and urban life, her research methods combine sustained ethnography, visual and textual analysis, and theorization to engage the specificity of place and interpret creative projects. Her publications address art and urbanization, art world globalization, public art, art pedagogy, fashion and street life, the Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary Art, visuality and creativity, urban memory, market space, and artistic interpretations of the built environment.
Her book, Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar (IU Press, 2017), examines the intersection of the art scene, urbanization, and art world globalization in Dakar, Senegal. Drawing upon research conducted in Dakar from 1998 to 2014, the book addresses how and why artists produce art, exhibit art, and transact with art world mediators -- curators, journalists, critics, animateurs d’art, and collectors -- from near and far. The book proposes that artistic production, exhibition, and mediation are productive and expressive of the city’s resources, possibilities, and connections. Reading the city as a resource and mediating space, Art World City explores how artists make their careers within the dynamics of urban space, and in doing so, how they navigate the infrastructure of opportunity at home and beyond. In addition to offering an analysis of a famously thriving art scene in an African metropolis, the book also proposes a theoretical paradigm, “the art world city,” a multi-scalar, urban site for artistic production, mediation, and transaction. This theorization accounts for the overlay of the creative economy and the urban environment as well as the interplay of local and global dynamics shaping Dakar.
Grabski’s feature length documentary film, Market Imaginary (IU Press, 2013), focuses on Dakar’s storied Colobane Market as a site for transforming used objects sustainably and creatively. Market Imaginary centers the market and the street as paradigmatic spaces to study Dakar specifically and cities more generally. Following its Dakar premiere, the film was screened at several institutions in the USA, Europe, and Africa. She is also co-editor of the book, African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work, (IU Press 2013), a volume exploring the use of interviews in creating scholarly narratives and guest editor for a special issue of Africa Today dedicated to Visual Experience in Urban Africa (2007). She has also contributed to several edited collections and academic journals including African Arts, Art Journal, Fashion Theory, Nka, Présence Francophone, Social Dynamics, and Africa Today.
Among her honors and awards are the Art Journal Award from the College Art Association in 2010 for the article, “Urban Claims and Visual Sources in the Making of Dakar’s Art World City,” Art Journal 68, 1 (Spring 2009) and the Millard Meiss Publication Award from the College Art Association (Spring 2016) for the book, Art World City. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship (2009-2010), the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (1998-1999), the Doctoral Fellowship from the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (1999-2000), the GLCA New Directions Initiative Grant made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2011, 2012, 2013), the R. C. Good Faculty Fellowship from Denison University (2006, 2013), the John and Christine Warner Professorship from Denison University (2013-2016), and the Mellon Digital Scholarship Faculty Award (2015).