The 2022 award went to Kathleen Maris Paltriner. Kathleen is translating an anthology of ecopoetry to be published in the US where there is a lack of Norwegian poetry in translation. She will translate a total of nine poets writing in Bokmål, Nynorsk, and Sámi languages, carrying out her own translations from Bokmål and Nynorsk—the two written standards of Norwegian—and collaboratively translating with experts in the indigenous Sámi language group. On her return to the United States, Kathleen will publish the anthology to provide US audiences access to critical voices in the field of ecopoetry.
This year, the award went to Michelle Chang. Michelle is conducting research on Norwegian mindsets about death in collaboration with the University of Bergen’s Center for Crisis Psychology to support the Center’s work with the organizations it serves. She will use the Project Support Award to conduct and then analyze information obtained from community focus groups of Norwegian adults who have experienced a recent death of a loved one. On her return to the United States, Michelle plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology that focuses on inequities in bereavement experiences. She hopes to bring the insights gained from her international experiences to provide more comprehensive language and frameworks for understanding bereavement.
Keegan is working towards a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, focused in development, sustainability, and cultural change at the University of Oslo. She plans to use her Project Support award to fund a research project surrounding a recent decision by the Norwegian government to allow mining waste dumping into a protected national salmon fjord. Upon her return to the US, Keegan plans to work in a policy or research position to help develop sustainable solutions to environmental issues.
Kaja Gjelde-Bennett, of Pacific Lutheran University, is studying language rights and revitalization of the Sami, the Indigenous peoples of Northern Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Her Roth Foundation award will allow her to travel to South Sami institutions in Norway and Sweden in order to gain access to their unique archives and conduct interviews with Sami language educators, community leaders, and politicians. Upon her return to the U.S., Kaja hopes to pursue a PhD in Indigenous Studies or Sociolinguistics in order to advance indigenous language revitalization.
Kristen Gleason, of the University of Georgia, is conducting research in the contemporary Norwegian Arctic in order to advance her work in environmental theory and aesthetics as well as to aid in the writing of her novel, set in the near-future Arctic. Her Roth Foundation award will allow her to travel to several Northern arts and literature festivals throughout Norway in order to expand her research and connect with Northern artists and writers. Upon her return to the U.S., Kristen plans to teach creative writing in a university setting while continuing to work on her novel.
Sophia Angelis, of Harvard University, conducted comparative research on the role played by Norway’s prison architecture in creating humane environments that encourage rehabilitation. With her Roth Foundation award, she created an exhibition that illustrates alternatives to US prisons and supports discussion and research on the administration of justice in the United States.
Anna Offit, of Princeton University, received support for her fascinating ethnographic study of ambivalence about the role of lay decision-makers in the judicial system. Despite being a pioneer in safeguarding representative jury selection, Norway is now considering doing away with the jury system. Anna seeks to investigate this decision as well as examine the relationship between Norway’s cultural norms and intuitions about justice and its lawyers’ attitudes about juries. While Anna was already using her opportunity with Fulbright to conduct interviews with prosecutors and observe jury trials in Oslo, our award allowed her to expand her research and undertake comparative research on jury demographics in the city of Tromsø.
Solveig Mebust, of the University of Michigan, is conducting doctoral research on the role of women in music activism during the nineteenth century, an important topic, as female contributions to the production of music are often overlooked. One of the main subjects of Solveig’s research is Nina Hagerup Grieg, the wife of composer Edvard Grieg and a talented musician in her own right. Our project support is currently helping Solveig expand her research to include Gjendine Slaalien, a diary maid who inspired Edvard Grieg with traditional folk songs that he transcribed and used in his own compositions, and will also enable Solveig to conduct additional research on Nina Hagerup Grieg’s role as a mentor and advocate for young women musicians.
Saint Olaf College’s Nora Uhrich undertook timely research on the treatment of female refugees in Norway who have experienced sexual trauma and the role of cultural differences in how their cases are handled. She hopes to raise awareness about this vulnerable population and use her research to inform and influence legislators who work on refugee policies. Our project support helped Uhrich travel to remote asylum reception centers in Norway, where she conducted interviews with residents and employees, facilitate visits to psychological clinics that specialize in the treatment of asylum seekers and hire translators for her interviews with refugee women.
As costume designer undertaking a Master’s at Norway’s innovative Oslo National Academy of the Arts, she worked with Christina Lindgren, internationally known for her costumes for musical theater, opera, theater, and dance performances. In Norway, Peterson had her designs for the world premiere of Charles Mee’s play soot and spit in Arizona accepted, and was part of the the team that designed Norway’s student submission to the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. Our award allowed her to attend this unique live exhibition of world theater and scenography, as well as create a national costume reflecting her multinational Turkish-American-Norwegien identity. To learn more, visit Haley’s website, and read the New York Time’s review of soot and spit off Broadway!.
This tenth of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features costume designer Haley Peterson. Check out her designs on her website!
In 2015, support from the Roth Foundation helped her create a costume for her thesis project for a Master’s degree at the Oslo National Academy of Arts. While in Norway, Haley designed costumes for opera and dance performances, attended “Critical Costume” lectures and—together with two other students—represented Norway at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. This month, Haley shares thoughts on her trajectory and craft with us:
Most students who are interested in a costume education go into theater departments; there aren’t really any programs that teach costume design as its own art/science or take an interdisciplinary approach to the subject. This is something I learned while looking for a program before college; it was either Fashion design with a course in theatrical costuming or Fiber art with a course in clothing. What I wanted to study was everything pertaining to costume design: human anatomy and drawing, dance, film, theater, construction and makeup, weaving, felting, dying, embroidery! So, although Arizona State University (ASU) offered a BA in Theater with a concentration in Costume Design, I decided to undertake their Individualized Focus in the Arts instead, searching through courses across departments to learn what I needed to research, understand, design, construct, dye and craft costumes.
After college, the Fulbright program enabled me to undertake an MA at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, where I was able to study with the accomplished costume designer Christina Lindgren. My time at the Academy taught me a lot about what I think of as “Work ethic/Life ethic.” In the U.S we focus on hyper-production and entertainment; but in Norway I learned to focus on independent and authentic expression. It shaped me into an artist who waits, and listens, and is ok with stillness and silence. I pared down my thesis project, for example, going deep instead of wide: putting hours of work—and meaning—into the selection of wool fabrics and motifs for embroidery, endlessly testing dye plants and colors, and constructing everything by hand.
Raw materials—hair, oil, plant dye, wool, cotton, skin, food, rot, rust—are the only things separating us from becoming a silicon robot colony. These are the materials I love and am drawn to, over and over again. They make me feel real and human, in touch with my agricultural ancestors and the earth around me. Simple, really. People push me to use photoshop for my costume renderings, while I reach for recycled brown paper and charcoal—the materials I used to draw the designs for soot and spit. They talk about wearable technology, and I soak wool fabric in vinegar and wrap it around rusty computer hard drives. It’s a subtle rebellion.
Norway also reinforced my aversion to borders between disciplines. An exhibition is simply a mostly-still performance; a performance is a live exhibition. For my thesis, I decided to create a highly personalized, appropriated Norwegian costume integrating my own multinational identity (Turkish-American-Norwegian), and then wear it to participate in the Norwegian Independence Day parade. I was the craftsperson, performance artist, filmmaker, and exhibition designer in a staged foray, as an outsider, into Norwegian nationalism. I was both masquerading as a Norwegian and simultaneously revealing myself as “other,” and recording the event on analogue film allowed me to re-stage the performance with behind-the-scenes details, extending the performance into an exhibition. The costume sparked interesting conversations. A rather flirtatious older gentleman and folk-dance partner thought my aluminum brooches (made of tea-candle holders) were a hilarious and preposterous invention—couldn’t I find someone to lend me theirs? And one lady repeatedly tried to convince me to sew her one of these “very ancient looking” Bunad—to not wear a Bunad from your mother’s or father’s home region is considered a perversion by traditionalists.
The irony of this last comment becomes clear when you consider the costume in detail. Its shape is that of the popular and controversial “beltestakk.” This type of dress from the Telemark region became so popular that Norwegians from other regions began buying it, giving it a questionable reputation. I picked it as a model intending to place my self deeper into a narrative of non-linear heritage… and discovered a surprising likeness between the modern sports bra and the traditional Beltestakk bodice, which has a similar X-shaped back, helping support the shoulders and breasts and serving a similar function, keeping everything in place for a long day of farming or folk dancing. The pattern for the collar came from an Ottoman Turkish shoe I saw in a museum in Sweden; funny it had come all that way, like me. I picked reds and yellows and rusts and black—bold and powerful colors, all very Middle Eastern. I dyed the bodice with onion skins, the cracked pattern and orange color reminding me of the hot Arizona desert and burning sky. I wove a red belt, dyed with red cochineal dye, and green apron strings made of borrowed green yarns from a fellow natural dyer I met on my first day at the Academy. I embroidered the sleeves with stylized Ottoman tulips, a rage that swept Europe in the early 18th-century “Lale Devri” or “Tulip Era.” I acquired two rancid smelling bags of raw sheep wool from a Norwegian farm, and fashioned the wool into a border for the wide skirt, sewn from wool dyed black with pomegranate skins soaked in an iron pot for several months. The pomegranates I gleaned from trashcans outside the local store run by Turkish immigrants, the iron pot from a Norwegian flea market. The wool border garnered a few laughs from those who recognized my low-fashion, but essentially Norwegian choice on Independence Day!
It was not easy coming off of the high of my time in Norway. While still at ASU, I had designed costumes for the premiere of the play soot and spit, written by Charles Mee, Jr. and directed by Kim Weild. Last spring I worked on the re-staging of the play, when it opened in New York! The play is a fictional story about the autistic artist James Castle. Its inspiration came from Castle’s own world of gritty, unsophisticated beauty; using materials we might call dirt and trash, he patiently brought his world into view. The play starts in this material world; then, as it progresses, the influence of the playwright seeps in, with a series of imaginative, colorful and sometimes tormented characters from Castle’s mind. In my costumes, I united these worlds by studying Castle’s own methods. I used charcoal and recycled brown paper for my costume renderings, the earthy aesthetic helping me unify the seemingly paradoxical elements in the vivid carnival painted by Mee. As we began constructing the costumes at the ASU costume shop, we hand painted the floral prints for dresses, which might have been neatly block printed in Castle’s day, and we distorted plaid and polka dot patterns in the way that he visualized them in his own drawings. My biggest challenge was to create Castle’s “paper” people as life-sized cardboard costumes and masks, in which actors could still move nimbly; for this we had to add invisible fabric joints, straps, hidden peep holes, mouth holes and foam blocks, adjusting the awkward materials to human bodies. I learned two things from this: nothing is impossible with a great team of craftspeople; and a well-made, structurally demanding costume hugely enhances an actor’s performance and physical expression.
Since soot and spit ran in New York, I have been taking a hiatus from production to take stock of what I learned and how I changed during my time in Norway. I am so grateful for the support of Fulbright Norway and the Lois Roth Foundation—they allowed me to have an incomparable international experience and furthered my education and artistic growth in deep and unexpected ways. One thing that is clear is that these programs make an incredibly important contribution by giving people direct experience of each other’s ways of looking at life, which is key in our globalizing world.
This text evolved from correspondence between Haley Peterson and Skyler Arndt-Briggs. Thanks to Drew Barnhart, our Media and Outreach Manager, for producing our October Portrait.
Bassoonist Brigid Babbish took advantage of Norwegian orchestral traditions to advance her skill and musicianship; in preparation for recitals in Norway and the U.S., she used her LRE award to have a balance hanger made to accommodate the Norwegian conservatory style of playing standing up.
For her Fulbright project, journalist Juliana Hanle (Yale University) went to Norway to document the impact of industry on indigenous communities in Norway. Her Roth Foundation award allowed her to travel to the high arctic to report on local protests against big mining interests there. Julia continued to follow the story, and in November 2019 published her article “The Fight for the Reindeer” in the Scientific American.
Janet Connor’s project explored how immigrant children are socialized to the complex language ideologies that exist within Norway. Unlike most other European nations, Norway has two standard written languages, each of which allows for much internal variation. Spoken Norwegian is made up of a large variety of regional dialects, and the use of a specific dialect indicates that the speaker belongs to a particular place and establishes claims to that region’s identity. The Norwegian linguistic context thus presents an unusual challenge to immigrants. In her Fulbright-funded fieldwork in an Oslo primary school—whose student body is over 95% first- or second-generation immigrant—Connor examined how immigrant communities recognize and align themselves with cultural values that are attached to specific dialects. Roth Foundation project support enabled Connor to perform a comparative study in Steinkjer, a town in Trøndelag, a region in central Norway known for its distinctive dialect. Connor’s project has already begun to receive attention both from anthropologists and non-academics.
Project on the relationship between environmental factors and social conflicts, undertaken at Norway’s Peace Research Institute in Oslo. Prior to going to Norway, Edelen had spent a year as an intern with the White House Task Force on Climate Change and Energy. Her Roth Foundation award enabled her to extend her data collection on water shortages and political conflict, with a Norwegian project in Bangladesh. Following this, she spent a year at Oxford as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in a Master’s program in Water Science, Policy and Management.
Project on the influence of Japanese design on Sverre Fehn, Norway’s most influential late-20th-century architect. While in Norway, Ericson was the lead designer for a studio project to create a “green path” linking the Norwegian University of Science and Technology campus. Her Roth Foundation award allowed the recent Williams College graduate to travel to two Fehn building sites in northern Norway.
Project entitled “Designing for Learning,” which addresses the role that mobile telephone technologies play in children’s learning in public spaces. At the time, Steier was building on a Master’s degree from Stanford University.
Project on global business ethics. Upon his return, Strand wrote, from his base at the University of Minnesota’s Business School: “In Norway as a Fulbrighter … I was helped by the Roth Foundation to regionalize my research. In companies like Nokia in Finland and Novo Nordisk in Denmark I explored different [corporate] approaches to responsibility.”
Project on local community and politics in medieval Scandinavia, part of the Transformation Project at the University of Oslo’s Centre for Viking and Medieval Studies. Bidwell graduated from Smith College in 2003.
Project on Old Norse philology, exploring this language that is a key component in the development of Germanic languages and provides a window into medieval history. At the time, linguist Boulerice was at Harvard University.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.