This conference could not have come into being without the vision and labor of many people. A core impetus for the project came from an ongoing conversation with my collaborator Alexandra Simpson on the topic of women and masks. Alex’s work on the conference has been invaluable. She will be presenting and facilitating throughout the year. Our shared interest in this theme emerged during a month-long mask workshop with Paola Piizi and Sarah Sartori in Italy in 2019. In awe of the insights, skill, and history this mother-daughter team possessed, we were specifically intrigued by their evolving roles in the male-dominated world of traditional mask-making, which came about after the death of Donato Sartori. With the goals of highlighting their and other women’s work and creating more opportunities for women of all backgrounds to experience the power of the mask, we began to develop a new project. In the spring of 2022 (after a two-year delay due to COVID), we will return to the Centro Maschere e Strutture Gestuali in Abano Terme for a collaborative exploration of women and masks with Paola Piizi and Sarah Sartori, funded in part by a Canada Arts Council Grant.
I want to acknowledge Elsa Wiehe, who has played a key role in shaping the conference—specifically the February events. As the K–16 Education Program Manager for BU’s federally funded African Studies Center, she has collaborated with me on many arts initiatives. The February weekend will focus on global masking and, specifically, on African masks and masquerade. Saturday’s activities will be geared towards educators who wish to become more versed in African culture and best practices for including African content.
Paula Mans, a Master’s candidate in the Department of Art Education, has developed the conference website and social media campaigns. She is a gifted mask maker, and in February of 2022, she will present a curriculum unit she developed.
Deb Bell has authored two important books on masks and has been a supporter, connector, and resource throughout the planning. During the conference, she will be presenting on her current interests and adding context through her years of mask research. I would also like to thank Deborah Foster and Claudia Orenstein for agreeing to review submissions and contributing to the sessions.
I would like to specifically acknowledge Dana Clancy, the Director of the School of Visual Arts; Susan Mickey, Director of the School of Theatre; Ty Furman of the Provost’s Arts Initiative; and the Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Harvey Young—all of whom have been instrumental in their support, encouragement, and guidance. This conference is also made possible through funding from the following Boston University programs, entities, and initiatives: The Center for the Humanities, the College of Fine Arts, the School of Theatre, the School of Visual Arts, the Online Masters in Art Education, the Arts Initiative’s Indigenous Voices Series, the African Studies Center, the Kilachand Honors College, and Cinem’Afriq.
Finally, I want to thank all the women who responded with enthusiasm and interest to this concept, helping to energize and re-energize me throughout the process.