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International Network Grant Awarded in part to USU Professor

Thursday, Aug. 02, 2012

USU music professor Christopher Scheer

USU music department faculty member Christopher Scheer and colleagues at several universities have received an international network grant that funds research on the arts in the late 19th and 20th centuries inspired by Theosophy.

A landmark international network grant of nearly $200,000 has been awarded to a group of scholars, including Utah State University’s assistant professor of music Christopher Scheer, to fund research on the arts in the late 19th and 20th centuries inspired by Theosophy, or a philosophical and spiritual movement into divine nature.

“I could not be more proud of professor Scheer and his great work,” said Craig Jessop, dean of the Caine College of the Arts. “Exciting possibilities lie ahead for the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State because of this great honor.”

Theosophy is a philosophical and spiritual movement founded against organized religion in the late 19th century, based on or expressing insight into divine nature and wisdom. It comes from the Greek word theosophia, meaning “divine wisdom.” Examples of art inspired by Theosophy during the 19th and 20th centuries include works by Wassily Kandinsky, Emil James Bisttram and Henrietta Shore.

Faculty from six universities worked together during the last two years to create an application for the grant. The result of the combined efforts of the faculty from USU, Columbia University, the University of York, University of Nottingham, University of Amsterdam and Cardiff University is a Leverhulme International Network Grant to research their chosen topic.

“This grant connects institutions around the world, from Logan to Amsterdam, to research Theosophy and the arts,” said Scheer.

The international research grant recently awarded to Scheer and his colleagues is in part a result of his earlier work at Liverpool Hope University. While on fellowship at Liverpool, Scheer became aware of a recently uncovered archive at the Borthwick Institute in York containing papers on Theosophy and music. He began researching this topic and discovered several British scholars also studying Theosophy’s influence on the arts, which led to a conference.

The grant funding will support activities for the next three years in the United Kingdom, Amsterdam, the United States and India. Activities include exhibits on theosophical visual art at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at USU and the Borthwick Institute at the University of York and international conferences in Amsterdam and New York City. The grant will also fund the Fry Street Quartet, USU’s resident string quartet, while it tours the UK playing music inspired by Theosophy from composers such as Cyril Scott and John Foulds.

“During the next three years many art historians, literary critics and other scholars will be visiting USU as part of this network grant,” said Scheer. “There will be a great deal of collaboration between the universities involved and this is a significant opportunity for us to learn from each other.”

Visiting scholars include literary critic and senior professor at Columbia University Gauri Viswanathan, who has published works on education, religion and culture. Rachel Cowgill, professor of cultural musicology at Cardiff University, has published works on British music from the 18th century to the 20th century. Both Viswanathan and Cowgill will travel to USU for the spring 2014 exhibit opening at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.

More information on the Leverhulme grant and the Leverhulme Trust is at its website.

Related links:

USU Music Department

Caine College of the Arts

Writer: Kara Rindlisbacher, 435-797-9203,

Contact: Denise Albiston, 435-797-1500,

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