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pollydesk 

Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, Professor

African visual and performance arts; critical museum and curatorial studies; the body and female representation; arts of divination, healing, and efficacy; cross-cultural approaches to memory, writing, and inscription; and women's health advocacy

Joined WAC in 2001

Office: 130B Glorya Kaufman Hall

Tel (310) 206-6211

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Roberts is an art historian (PhD Columbia University, 1991) who studies the philosophical underpinnings of African visual and performance-based arts, and the translation of cultural experience into museum exhibitions. She was Senior Curator at the Museum for African Art in New York (1984-94), where her exhibitions and books included Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals (1993); Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art (1994); and with Allen F. Roberts, Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996), which won the College Art Association's Alfred Barr Award for outstanding museum scholarship.

From 1999 – 2008, she served as Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Her exhibitions and publications produced at the Fowler Museum include: Body Politics: The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar (2000); A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003), with Allen F. Roberts, which won both the Herskovits Award and the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award; Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art (2007); and Continental Rifts: Contemporary Time-Based Arts of Africa (2009).

In addition to her fulltime professorship, Dr. Roberts serves as Consulting Curator of African Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) where she has assisted the museum in launching a permanent new program and dedicated gallery for the arts of Africa. In July 2013 the gallery was inaugurated with an exhibition that she curated entitled Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa. See link for more information and video: http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/shaping-power-luba-masterworks-royal-museum-central-africa 

For LACMA, she has also co-curated Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa with Dr. Karen E. Milbourne, which showed at LACMA, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art, and the Wellin Museum of Art in Clinton, New York. See both a video trailer and a blog on the exhibition page:  http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/senses-time-video-and-film-based-works-africa And most recently, she curated a major exhibition entitled The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts, shown in LACMA's Resnick Pavilion. For an interview and an LATimes review, see the following links:

http://unframed.lacma.org/2017/05/11/conversation-dr-polly-nooter-roberts-inner-eye

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-inner-eye-lacma-20170624-htmlstory.html

Dr. Roberts has been a Getty Fellow and held other grants and awards; has served as President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association; and is an editor of African Arts journal. In 2007, she was decorated as a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France for her promotion of francophone African arts. And in 2017, Dr. Roberts was the recipient of two major awards: the Lifetime Leadership Award from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association conferred in August at the 17th Triennial Symposium on African Arts held in Accra, Ghana; and the Master Teacher/Dai Sensei Award, which she receieved from the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles in October. Click here to see the Awards Announcements

Her two major research areas have been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she did long-term dissertation field research among Luba peoples, and Senegal, where she has conducted ongoing field research since 1994 with Allen F. Roberts on a Sufi movement called the Mouride Way. Her new project with Al Roberts focuses on the visual and expressive arts associated with a South Asian saint named Shirdi Sai Baba, and his devotional diasporas in the Indian Ocean World. As the recipient of a Wenner-Gren grant, she embarked on multi-sited field research in 2009/10 to Mauritius, Germany, and India to document this vibrant visual and performative phenomenon. Together the Robertses are co-authoring a book entitled A Global Saint in a Virtual World: Devotional Diasporas of Shirdi Sai Baba and have created a website that demonstrates the powerful role of new media and digital devotion in this widespread spiritual movement: http://www.shirdisaibabavirtualsaint.org best viewed through Mozilla Firefox.

Among the courses that Professor Roberts teaches are Curating Cultures, a graduate and undergraduate seminar that addresses issues in the politics of representation and display; Body Politics in African Art, an undergraduate seminar that explores cross-cultural theories of the body and gendered arts and performances in African and diasporic contexts, both historical and contemporary; Performing Memory, a graduate level seminar that draws upon memory theory to consider the active roles that memory and history play in visual and performance arts across cultures; and Arts of Writing and Inscription, which considers an expanded definition of “writing” to enable greater consideration of the world’s diverse systems of inscription and graphic expression. In 2016-17, Dr. Roberts created two new seminars entitled Arts of Time and Ways of Seeing, both inspired by her recent exhibitions.

Dr. Roberts has been instrumental in the formation of a new major field in Critical Museum and Curatorial Studies within the department, and serves as a mentor to students interested in this area of both theory and practice. She teaches a core undergraduate course entitled World Arts, Local Lives that is built around the Fowler Museum’s long-term display entitled “Intersections,” for which Dr. Roberts served as Project Director. She has also developed a course with staff at the Fowler and Hammer Museums entitled Intro to Museology: Exhibitions and Education. Many of her courses use the museum as a focal point of analysis and the city of Los Angeles as a field research site for special projects. For a glimpse into her history and passions for teaching and curating, see links below: 

http://dailybruin.com/2013/10/08/professor-brings-travel-curatorial-experience-to-class/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0DfKDxPw9I

In addition to her scholarship, teaching, and curating, Polly Roberts is a breast cancer survivor, advocate, and spokesperson. Since 2013 she has been on the organizing committee for conferences hosted by the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Los Angeles affiliate to raise awareness about Stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC). In March 2015 she was honored to be the invited Keynote Survivor Speaker for the Komen Los Angeles Race for the Cure at Dodger Stadium https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iAGFUGLn6E&feature=youtu.be. She and her 2014 Body Politics class were featured in a CBS health segment about living and thriving with MBC http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2015/03/06/art-professor-breast-cancer-survivor-inspires-ucla-students-in-face-of-uncertainty/. And she was one of ten survivors invited to participate in a powerful music video to celebrate the new Komen survivor anthem, #STRONG, by acclaimed British singer/song-writer, Matt Goss, who dedicated this inspirational song to his beloved mother whom he lost to breast cancer in 2014, and to all those affected by cancer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Kl4461cv0. Polly’s story and messages for all survivors are told in this account: http://ww5.komen.org/Breast-Cancer-Stories/Dr_-Polly-Roberts.html. Roberts hopes to find more ways to advocate for women’s health and wellbeing through the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and its ardent commitment to arts activism and global health.

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 Jade Robertson  TEDxTalks

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Nia Love featured in Dance Magazine's "Meet the Black Women Who Paved the Way for Postmodern Dance ...
Maya Zellman

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Meet Maya Zellman (WACD BA 2005) of Maya’s Brigadeiro Brazilian Sweets in Sherman Oaks featured i...
Elyan Hill - Ghana

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This past summer from August 9-13th a couple of WAC/D students and a student who graduated from the...
Jeremy Peretz - AAA Prize

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  One of our great Culture and Performance PhD students, Jeremy Peretz, has just won second pri...
Dr. Neelima Jeychandran - Indian Ocean

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 Recent Culture and Performance PhD, Dr. Neelima Jeychandran, will participate in the UCLA Fowl...
Christy Bolingbroke

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 It isn't every day—or year, or even decade—that a dedicated choreography incubator opens i...
Last month September 2018 Next month
S M T W T F S
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Mon Sep 24 @12:00AM
Quarter Begins
Tue Sep 25 @12:00PM
New Graduates Orientation with Vice Chair
Tue Sep 25 @ 1:00PM
New Graduates Handbook and Degree Planning
Tue Sep 25 @ 2:00PM
All Graduate Students Professional Development with Dr. O'Shea
Lula Washington on KCET

Lula Washington on KCET

For Lula and Erwin Washington, the Lula Washington Dance Theatre is more than just a building or st...
Shweta Saraswat joins ACTA

Shweta Saraswat joins ACTA

After National Search, ACTA Welcomes Three Exceptional Staff Members. Not often does a small organi...
 Jade Robertson  TEDxTalks

Jade Robertson TEDxTalks

Dance is my ministry | Jade Robertson | TEDxUCLA What would the world look like if we all became ch...
Shamell Bell TEDxTalks

Shamell Bell TEDxTalks

Becoming a lighthouse: co-choreographing our movements | Shamell Bell | TEDxUCLA How does dance rev...
Nia Love

Nia Love

Nia Love featured in Dance Magazine's "Meet the Black Women Who Paved the Way for Postmodern Dance ...
Maya Zellman

Maya Zellman

Meet Maya Zellman (WACD BA 2005) of Maya’s Brigadeiro Brazilian Sweets in Sherman Oaks featured i...
Elyan Hill - Ghana

Elyan Hill - Ghana

This past summer from August 9-13th a couple of WAC/D students and a student who graduated from the...
Jeremy Peretz - AAA Prize

Jeremy Peretz - AAA Prize

  One of our great Culture and Performance PhD students, Jeremy Peretz, has just won second pri...
Dr. Neelima Jeychandran - Indian Ocean

Dr. Neelima Jeychandran - Indian Ocean

 Recent Culture and Performance PhD, Dr. Neelima Jeychandran, will participate in the UCLA Fowl...
Christy Bolingbroke

Christy Bolingbroke

 It isn't every day—or year, or even decade—that a dedicated choreography incubator opens i...