University of the Highlands and Islands: Shetland based artist recognised with professorship

A visual artist and educator, originally from Pennsylvania, internationally known for a varied art practice responding to social and cultural concerns, has been awarded a professorship from the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Professor Roxane Permar, a research fellow in the centre for island creativity based at Shetland UHI, has been given the title, professor of art and social practice, in recognition of her interdisciplinary social and creative research and her exceptional contribution to education.

Professor Permar first had a connection with Shetland in 1985 and moved to the islands to teach sculpture at the college in 2001. Since then, she has continued to teach and was instrumental in creating the fully online MA art and social practice programme for which she is programme leader. She exhibits her work internationally and her research focuses on engaging with people to address social concerns.

Speaking about her new title, Professor Permar said:

“I am thrilled and proud to receive this important title. I have always seen art and learning as a way to bring about social change. I believe art can stretch our imaginations, build self-esteem and enhance a sense of ownership in all aspects of our lives.

“Like my own research practice, I encourage students to embed their work in their own location, where the local context gives their work meaning and relevance. I love working in my local community in Shetland. And whilst my work is rooted here, advances in technology and cross-disciplinary collaborations ensure that it brings new knowledge and fresh insights with national and international dimensions.”

Professor Todd Walker, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said:

“The title of professor is the highest level of academic achievement which can be awarded. It is reserved for individuals who are recognised as leaders in their field and who have demonstrated excellence in their work. Professor Permar continues to inspire and motivate our students and her colleagues. She is a passionate person who has significantly helped to raise the profile of our university’s creative and cultural industries research, which has a key role to play in recovering from COVID-19 and economic renewal.”

Fiona Rennie, a recent graduate of the MA (Hons) art and social practice and host of ‘The Creative Ruralist’ podcast, added:

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition! Roxane’s practice over the years, both as a lecturer and as an artist in her own right, has done substantial work in the field of socially engaged art practice bringing it from the fringes of the art world into more common practice. As a recent graduate from the MA (Hons) art and social practice course, it would not be an understatement to say that my experience has been life changing!”

“Roxane’s mentoring and insight has been integral both in finding where my practice fits within this course, and in providing a safe and nurturing digital environment to explore and grow our practices. If like me, as an artist working in a socially engaged way, you’re looking for some direction and inspiration, as well as a brilliant extended network of wonderful artists working from all different backgrounds and geographical locations, then this course is a brilliant starting point!”

Professor Permar is part of the ‘Home and Belonging’ team, an arts-based research project working with care experienced young people to influence housing and social care policy through creative enquiry. Her on-going collaboration with artist Susan Timmins, Cold War Projects, explores the Cold War as it exists physically in the landscape and in the memory, considering how art can re-imagine this period. They collect memories and perceptions of the Cold War on both sides of the former Iron Curtain with reference to the significant role that Shetland and her neighbours in the northern and Arctic regions play in NATO’s early defence warning system.

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