RICHLAND -- A Washington State University Tri-Cities fine arts professor is heading to Scotland this winter after receiving a prestigious academic award.
Peter Christenson is one of about 800 faculty members from the U.S. to be named a Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar for the 2014-15 academic year. He is the first WSU fine arts professor to receive the award, university officials said.
Christenson sees the award as an opportunity to expand and refine his work in multi-disciplinary and social practice art, which requires becoming involved in a community and seeking its participation in his projects, he said.
"I really want to embed myself," he said.
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WSU officials also are excited, as the award bolsters Christenson's skills as an educator and artist, puts WSU on an international stage and raises the profile of the small Richland campus.
"It proves our faculty are very active," said Thom Brown, chairman of WSU's fine arts department in Pullman.
The Fulbright Program provides scholarships and stipends to university students and professors to study and work abroad.
The awards were inspired by U.S. Sen. William Fulbright, who envisioned them as a way to strengthen ties between the U.S. and other nations after World War II. They are paid for by the U.S. State Department, foreign government agencies and donors.
"Award recipients ... will be the future leaders for tomorrow and support the 'special relationship' between the U.S. and U.K.," a release said.
Christenson has been at WSU Tri-Cities since 2012. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, his projects include mapping the various forms of litter found throughout the Tri-Cities and launching a literary and art magazine called Null Set.
He approached Brown about applying for the award last year. While Christenson is junior faculty, the university is pushing to do more research, raise the university's standing in academic circles and encourage ambitious faculty, Brown said.
"(Christenson) hasn't sat around and waited for things to occur," Brown said. "It's a very current and very vibrant thing he's doing."
Christenson will spend his time in Scotland at the University of Dundee developing a multimedia exhibition and video archive of customs and stories from the area around Dundee.
The city, on the Firth of Tay on Scotland's northeast coast, is one of the country's largest cities with almost 150,000 people. It existed for hundreds of years as a seaport, but technological industries have developed there in recent decades.
It's an exciting time to be in Scotland and the United Kingdom, Christenson said. The recently failed vote on Scottish independence has raised many issues. He has also followed the Turner Prize, an art award given out annually by the Tate Britain, a prominent London-based art gallery.
"In terms of contemporary art in the United Kingdom, I think there's some impressive work going on," he said.
The amount of the award wasn't disclosed, but will pay for Christenson's living expenses while he works in Dundee. He's also seeking additional money for equipment and travel expenses from WSU.
Christenson is excited to get to work and plans to show the result of his research in Scotland and in the Tri-Cities and Pullman on his return, he said. However, it will be difficult to leave what he's called home for the past two years.
"I've worked hard to build connections here," he said.