Mellon Sawyer Seminar at the University of Iowa

Grant totaling $225,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to host a Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Racial Reckoning and Social Justice Through Comics”
Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in the Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the award of a grant totaling $225,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to host a Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Racial Reckoning and Social Justice Through Comics” at the University across the academic year 2022-23.

“We are honored to receive our third Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminar Award. This project will connect artists and humanities scholars of comics, visual culture, and histories of race and representation in the U.S. and globally” said UI President Barbara Wilson. “We’re grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s continued support of the University of Iowa over the years.”

The Mellon Sawyer Seminar will be co-directed by University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty members Corey Creekmur (Cinematic Arts, English, and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies), Ana Merino (Spanish and Portuguese), and Rachel Williams (Art & Art History, Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies).  Among their other professional interests and accomplishments, Creekmur edits the award-winning book series Comics Culture for Rutgers University Press and is First Vice President and a founding member of the Comics Studies Society. Merino, in addition to writing plays, poetry, and fiction, has published El cómic hispánico, Diez ensayos para pensar el cómic, and a critical monograph on Chris Ware; she has also curated a number of major exhibitions of comics.  Williams has recently published Elegy for Mary Turner: An Illustrated Account of a Lynching and Run Home If You Don’t Want to Be Killed: The Detroit Uprising of 1943, both works of graphic nonfiction centered on historical cases of racial injustice

In addition to a year-long intensive seminar with local participants, the Sawyer Seminar will feature a series of public presentations by prominent visiting creators and scholars, a film series, workshops, podcasts, and other public events, all of which will critically engage questions of racial representation in the popular international formats of comics.  Mellon Sawyer Seminar funding will also support an in-residence post-doctoral fellow and the dissertation research of two affiliated UI graduate students.

“Racial Reckoning and Social Justice Through Comics” will be the third Mellon Sawyer Seminar hosted at the University of Iowa, and will build upon the strong foundations for comics studies at the University of Iowa established a decade ago when the co-directors brought major comics scholars, publishers, and artists to Iowa City for a series of events and exhibitions as part of the Obermann Humanities Symposium “Comics, Creativity, and Culture.” This Seminar is also designed to directly engage with ongoing discussions and initiatives around social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, in Iowa City, and beyond.  

A full list of visitors and events will be forthcoming on a seminar website, a link to which will be available via the Obermann Center’s website.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.