SUNY Oswego junior Infiniti Robinson will study how art performed and created by non-white cultures might impact and educate white students on campus, thanks to a campus research grant. 

The study by Robinson, who double majors in art history and sociology, is titled “How Does Art Representing Non-White Races or Cultures Inform White Students' Perspective of Other Cultural Identities?” Her proposal received funding from a Student Scholarly and Creative Activity Grant from the university's Scholarly and Creative Activity Committee (SCAC). 

“My proposal revolved around studying white students’ perceptions of cultural art around SUNY Oswego,” Robinson said. “I wanted to evaluate the ways that cultural art, whether it be performing art or fine art, has the ability to inform students of different cultural identities.”

Robinson has been researching the importance of art and the power it has to educate others, especially people from different cultural backgrounds.

“I just know through consuming different types of music in different languages or even different regions, and looking at different art from people around the world that there are specific or communal issues that are prevalent or very specific and unique to those communities,” Robinson said.

Robinson was inspired to research this topic because she took the “Qualitative Research Methods” class with sociology faculty member Emily Estrada. In that course, she had to pose a research question to explore. After she began researching, Robinson wanted to continue learning about how other cultures impact white cultures.

“It started off as a general research question, but it turned into something that I knew I wanted to explore outside of the semester and that I didn’t want to put a time limit on when I would stop trying to understand the question,” Robinson said.

Estrada is Robinson’s faculty sponsor and has been guiding her through the research. Robinson said that Estrada has helped her learn to accept that research is not linear and sometimes her assumptions might need adjusting as more results emerge.

Not only is Robinson looking at how performing and fine art educate people on other cultures, but also different classes that help educate others.

“I’m also stressing the importance of having those types of performances or classes led by people of those cultures as well because I feel like they can help give personal insight to their own experiences rather than them being assumed,” Robinson said.

Robinson is looking into whether there is a disconnect when the people who perform or teach these classes are not from the culture being portrayed. Her study is campus-specific and she is interviewing people who take part in these performances, as well as professors teaching the classes.

“I’ll be specifically studying on-campus perceptions, but I used literature from pretty much any and everywhere to gather the information I have to come to this conclusion,” Robinson said.

When she submitted her proposal, SCAC was supportive and helped her with what she could revise to solidify her research, Robinson said. 

–- Written by Gabrielle Kroeger of the Class of 2023