Sunflower Spotlight: WSU’s Royce Smith named 2015 Fulbright Scholar

Royce Smith, associate professor of Contemporary and Global Art History and director of the School of Art and Design, has been named a 2015 Fulbright Scholar.

The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs in the world, according to a news release from Wichita State, and Smith said his award has been a long time in the making.

Smith came to WSU in 2005, and said his time is spent trying to move art history away from the world of slide projectors and PowerPoint presentations.

“I spent time trying to figure out how my discipline can go out into the community and out into the world,” Smith said, “and make really positive differences and changes.”

Smith said he has worked hard to translate his travels, as well as his roles in curating exhibitions into not only a momentary effect, but a lasting one that affects social, cultural, political and economical change.

After a conference Smith attended in Paraguay, he met with a group of people who were interested in exploring contemporary art in Latin America and the future of Paraguay and contemporary art.

It wasn’t until returning to Paraguay, to give a series of speeches a year later, that Smith said, “Why doesn’t Paraguay have its own Biennial?”

A Biennial is an exhibition held every two years. Smith said it is associated with regularity, tourism, economic impact and educational opportunities.

“They’re really interesting laboratories for figuring out how art can affect change in the world,” Smith said.

Smith helped put together a nonprofit Biennial foundation in Paraguay that is now actively fundraising.  He said he is working on turning the city of Asunción into a major epicenter of contemporary art this October.

Aaron Newton, a student in the School of Fine Arts, said the Fulbright Award is one more thing that shows WSU is a national player.

“Getting the Fulbright over in the Fine Arts building is pretty cool,” Newton said.

Smith said he remembers the first moment he knew he wanted to go into the art world.

“When I had my first intern experience at the Prado Museum in Madrid,” Smith said, “and when I got to see Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ for the first time, it showed me that art has a really important place at the table.”

He said students are going to be directly involved with his project in Paraguay.

“We have worked very hard over the past year to be engaged with community and with service, and with local and global art citizenship,” Smith said.

Smith also said he encourages students to take classes at the School of Fine Arts.

Smith said members of a ceramics class centered on kiln building are traveling to Asunción as part of the Biennial, and they will be building two to three kilns for the artists who cannot afford their own.

“It’s great to be a Shocker, because the Fulbright recognizes your talent as a scholar,” Smith said, “but your talent as a scholar is really dependent on the place where you hang your hat and that you call home.”