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Special Initiatives


The Fowler Education Department now collaborates with partners across campus to support residences that enhance educational activities at the museum. 

During the 2021-22 academic year, the Fowler is partnering with the Islamic Studies Program to host the Community Bridges Residency, which enables community leaders, artists, and other non-academics who engage with Islam or Muslims in the community to benefit from a year of residency at UCLA. This residency is co-sponsored by the Center for Near Eastern Studies and the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

Edina Lekovic is the inaugural Community Scholar in the Community Bridges Residency. She has more than two decades of expertise in storytelling, communications, media, leadership development, and interfaith community building. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Robert Ellis Simon Foundation, which supports mental wellness services for L.A. County’s most vulnerable residents. Lekovic’s research on Muslim communities in Los Angeles will inform and enrich the Fowler’s new initiative Engaging Lived Religion in the 21st Century Museum, funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. This initiative expands the Fowler’s multidisciplinary exploration of intersections between art, religion, and spirituality, as well as the lived experiences of belief; and increases community participation in the museum’s exhibitions, public programs, and digital offerings.

Art of Liberation: Africa and the African Diaspora

This initiative offers programs and digital resources dedicated to histories of Africa and the African diaspora. The online conversations and educational content highlight a diversity of aesthetics and materials, the crucial contributions of women artists, restorative artistic practices, and the efficacy of the arts for self-representation.

Art of Liberation: Africa and the African Diaspora was generously funded by the Nissan Foundation and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.

View related resources on the Art of Liberation: Africa and the African Diaspora project page.

Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles

In this project we aim to provide a digital map of the layered, sedimented geographies of Indigenous Los Angeles through digital storytelling and community-based research collaboration. Our project includes the Gabrielino/Tongva and the Tataviam, the first people of Los Angeles, who struggle for recognition of their sacred spaces and their political rights, American Indians who were displaced through governmental policies, as well as the indigenous diasporas from Latin America (LAID) and Oceania (AP) — people displaced by militarism, neoliberal economic policies, and overlapping colonial histories.

Click here to learn more.

Carrying Our Ancestors Home

Carrying Our Ancestors Home, a project founded by UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center and the Fowler Museum under the directorship of Dr. Mishuana Goeman and Dr. Wendy Teeter, seeks to illuminate previously unengaged practices and infrastructure behind the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and how Native people regard various aspects of the law, and the work they do to enact and enforce it. To achieve this goal, we have collaborated with native cultural practitioners, tribal members, professionals, and academics in the Southern California area in our creation of a digital educational resource webpage about repatriation of ancestral remains and cultural items. We have produced original materials in the form of short educational videos engaging various understandings what repatriation looks like from the perspective of tribal practitioners, institutional managers of NAGPRA, and those working on legal compliance. We are grateful for our UCLA sponsors: UCLA American Indian Studies Center, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, Vice Chancellor of Research Roger Wakimoto, and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell M. Hunt as well as Tribal partners from across the world, we are developing an online educational resource about repatriation.

Click here to learn more.

Engaging Lived Religion

Engaging Lived Religion—a three-year project (2021–23) funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative—expands the Fowler’s ongoing study of religious and spiritual traditions in Los Angeles and around the world. This program furthers the Fowler’s decades-long, multidisciplinary exploration of the artistic dimensions of religion and spirituality, as well as the lived experiences of belief, while addressing the need to increase community participation in the museum’s exhibitions, public programs, and digital initiatives.

Lilly Project Team: 

Amy Landau, Co-Director of Engaging Lived Religion and Director of Education and Interpretation
Francesca Albrezzi, Director of Vital Matters Digital Development
Leigh Carter, Program Coordinator and Educator
Johnathan Glover, Head of Digital Learning and Innovation
Jeniffer Perales Garcia, Manager of K-12 and Family Programming and Bilingual Educator
Patrick Polk, Senior Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts
Syona Puliady, Curatorial Assistant
Gene McHugh, Head of Digital Media

Read more about related exhibitions, digital initiatives, and public programs on the Engaged Lived Religion project page.


Working with represented communities as advisors, the Lilly project team is launching a series of temporary exhibitions highlighting religious diversity in Southern California. These include installations devoted to: Jain textile temple hangings; the sacred arts of traditional Yoruba religion in Africa and the Americas; the visual and sonic landscapes of Muslim communities in Los Angeles; and an exhibition dedicated to Sikhism. 

We are also collaboratively reimagining elements of our permanent collection exhibition, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, in conversation with local and international advisors.

Digital Initiatives

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief is a digital initiative that seeks to represent different perspectives on devotional works at the Fowler—objects that arouse devotion, awe, and serenity; mediate relationships between human and spiritual realms; and are of vital importance to the cultural heritage of individuals and communities.

In museums and universities, interpretations of material expressions of belief are generally limited to third-person anonymous narratives composed by curators and scholars. These interpretations are informed by post-Enlightenment views that see faith as a relic of the past and/or more alive in “other” societies (i.e., non-Western and Indigenous ones). The materiality of belief is thereby removed from lived understanding and knowledge of practice. This project centers knowledge embedded in the practice of faith-based leaders, artists, and community organizers. We believe that the insights of these often unrecognized knowledge-makers shed light not only on the materiality of belief but also on vital matters of today: education, justice, the environment, and activism. 

Digital Advisory Committee: 

Refik Anadol, UCLA Design Media Arts and Refik Anadol Studio, LLC
Alex Bortolot, Minneapolis Institute of Art
Jenna Caravello, UCLA Design Media Arts
Sonia Estoff Coman, National Museum of Asian Art
Maryam Iskandari, MIIM Designs
Wendy Perla Kurtz, UCLA Digital Humanities
Lauren McCarthy, UCLA Design Media Arts
Bakhtiar Mikhak, Harvard Division of Continuing Education and Media Modifications, Ltd.
Ramesh Srinivasan, UCLA Department of Information Studies and Director of UC Digital Cultures Lab

Public Programs

In association with the digital initiative Vital Matters: Stories of Belief, the Fowler is hosting a series of public programs.

Click here for the Press Release .

Click here to learn about Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative.

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