2021 Watson Fellow Vivian Bauer to explore models of creative space in the Lusophone world


Vivian Bauer ’21, courtesy of Bauer.

Bergen Schmidt, Features Editor

Vivian Bauer ’21 was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for her project called “Art is for Everybody: Looking Beyond Museums in the Lusophone World.” The fellowship is a one-year grant awarded to graduating seniors at the fellowship’s partner institutions who intend on pursuing “purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States.” She plans to travel to Brazil, Mozambique, Timor-Leste, Cape Verde and Angola, all former Portuguese colonies, as well as Portugal, to explore different models of creative spaces.

“I want to look at different models of creative spaces from national museums to community art spaces to DIY spaces and look at what kind of tools these creative spaces use to engage with their community or engage with the artists and see what is most effective for creating a decolonized art space that looks past the Eurocentric museum model,” Bauer said.

The creative spaces Bauer will explore vary from country to country. In Timor-Leste, she’ll primarily visit youth-oriented community art centers. In Brazil, she plans to visit the large, well-established contemporary art museum and sculpture park Inhotim, which is located in Brumadinho. 

Bauer says she wants to collectively look at the similarities and differences of all of these spaces collectively and see “if there are any ties between language hierarchies since I am connecting them all through Portuguese and this colonial history — I want to investigate that and see how it’s reflected in the space via language.”

While Bauer is excited about her entire project, she’s most looking forward to visiting Timor-Leste. She’s had the opportunity to research the country in an academic setting for classes in linguistics and international studies, but it’s a place she still doesn’t know much about.

“[Timor-Leste] has a really interesting history and really interesting multilingual society and it’s a place I would never have the chance to go there otherwise, and so I’m really excited to go there, especially,” she said.

At Macalester, Bauer’s interest in the Lusophone — Portuguese-speaking — world began when she started taking Portuguese. Beyond looking at creative spaces, her project will allow her to strengthen her personal language skills and “investigate colonial hierarchies within language.” 

She learned about the Watson Fellowship through discussions with her advisor. Going abroad after graduation has always been a part of Bauer’s plan, and the fellowship provided her with the opportunity to explore multiple countries while pursuing a project that she’s passionate about.

Bauer’s inspiration for the project comes in part from her exposure to museums at a young age — both in Washington D.C. and countries abroad. Growing up, visiting museums was a common activity on family trips. While abroad her junior year, she was able to visit the Inhotim Sculpture Park in Brazil, but her time was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After that brief visit, Bauer was eager to learn more about that specific space.

“I really want to learn more about how it [Inhotim] interacts with its local community and how it’s been impactful for the artists that are displayed there, and what are the curators thinking while they’re doing this,” she said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bauer plans to defer her project for a year, as border restrictions and the spread of the virus make travel to one, let alone six, countries difficult. But, she’s trying to stay patient and optimistic about it, knowing that her project will ultimately benefit from the wait. 

At the end of it all, Bauer hopes to create a final project that is a “multimedia digital space that’s inspired by collage art.”

“I want to infuse a bunch of different mediums to express these different tools in all of the spaces that I saw and really look at what is effective, what inspired me, what inspires others in these communities and synthesize everything that I experience and see while I’m gone,” she said.

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