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LAURELS: Artist-in-residence Downes wins career grant

By Dave Jones on December 1, 2015 in University

The national arts and youth development organization Sphinx is honoring UC Davis’ Lara Downes for her artistic accomplishments and promotion of diversity in classical music. Downes, a pianist, is artist in residence at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

She is among three honorees in the fifth year of the Sphinx Organization’s Medals of Excellence program. It awards $50,000 career grants to “extraordinary emerging classical artists of color, who, early in their professional career demonstrate the following qualities: artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination and great potential for leadership.”

Founded in 1996, the Sphinx Organization has a mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Downes, born in San Francisco and raised in Europe, “mines her own mixed African American and Eastern European background and the impressions of her transatlantic adventures to produce a unique range of creative projects,” according to her website.

She serves as the director of the Mondavi Center National Young Artists Program, and she is the founder and president of the 88 KEYS Foundation, supporting arts education experiences in California public schools through instrument donations and teaching artist presentations.


Two music professors received awards at the American Musicological Society’s annual meeting in November.

• Carol Hess — Robert M. Stevenson Award for outstanding scholarship in Iberian music, for her book Representing the Good Neighbor: Music, Difference and the Pan American Dream. The 2013 book examines the reception of Latin American art music in the United States during the Pan American movement of the 1930s and ’40s.

• Jessie Ann Owens — Noah Greenberg Award, a $2,000 grant in aid to support the exploration of historical performing practices, through collaboration between scholars and performers. Owens’ award will go toward creating a world premiere recording of the mid-16th-century work I madrigali a cinque voci by Cipriano de Rore. 

The Flemish composer de Rore was born 500 years ago, and Owens is organizing a conference at UC Davis to celebrate the anniversary. “Il Divino Cipriano: New Perspectives on the Music of Cipriano de Rore” is scheduled for Jan. 13-14. The program, available online, includes performances by the UC Davis Early Music Ensemble and the Orlando Consort.

Owens is the former dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies


Heghnar Watenpaugh, associate professor of art history, is the recipient of the Omer Lutfi Barkan Article Prize from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.

The award was given for her article “Preserving the Medieval City of Ani: Cultural Heritage Between Contest and Reconciliation” published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in December 2014.

Ani, in eastern Turkey, is famous for its many medieval Armenia churches. It is in line to be declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

“Ani is one of the most beautiful and poignant sites in the world,” Watenpaugh said. “We live at a time when cultural heritage in the Middle East is increasingly threatened and caught up in political struggles. Therefore, learning about such sites and the complexities of their conservation and interpretation is more vital than ever. Ani is also a politically sensitive site due to the tragic history of the ethnic Armenian population in Turkey.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Between 1915 and the early 1920s the Ottoman government killed or exiled most of its Armenian population. Many Armenian religious and cultural sites were destroyed, appropriated for other uses, or left to decay.

The prize committee wrote of her article: “Moving beyond a narrative of conflicted memories and irreconcilable pasts, Watenpaugh highlights the uneasy entanglement of official memory, world heritage, tourism and trauma. As such, her work presents an important contribution to the literature on the politics of memory in Ottoman-Turkish studies.”

Said Watenpaugh: “This is the first time this prize has been awarded to an article on a Turkish-Armenian topic. I am grateful for the award, I am heartened by the academic community’s support of my research, and I hope that this calls attention to sites like Ani.”


Sven-Erik Rose, an associate professor of German and an affiliate of the Jewish Studies Program, won a 2015 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies for his book, Jewish Philosophical Politics in Germany 1789–1848.

The Schnitzer Book Award honors “innovative research, excellent writing and sophisticated methodology” in Jewish studies. Rose won for best book in “Philosophy and Jewish Thought,” one of three categories this year.

Rose, interim chair of the Department of German and Russian, will receive the $5,000 prize during the Association for Jewish Studies’ Dec. 13-15 conference in Boston.

“Receiving a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award is a great honor and extremely encouraging to me as a scholar,” he said. “I am grateful for the award also for bringing more attention to the provocative but always compelling German-Jewish thinkers with whom I spent so much time in writing the book—it is attention they well deserve.”


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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,