The Arts

La Donna Forsgren Black Artists Matter
La Donna Forsgren, Associate Director of IRR and Associate Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre

Understood as much more than programming, the arts serve as a means by which communities of color assert a recuperative sense of identity. Therefore, the Initiative integrates the arts into all three foci.

In terms of research, the Initiative will promote the arts as a form of scholarship, a means of knowing and interpreting the past and the contemporary moment, as well as a means of envisioning alternative futures. 

In terms of education, the arts will offer students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to learn more about BIPOC communities.

Relative to community empowerment, the arts will be a central vehicle through which Notre Dame moves beyond its campus to support and celebrate communities of color in the greater Michiana area and beyond.


The artist-in-residence program serves as the engine for the Initiative's efforts in the arts. Each year, the Initiative hosts an artist (writer, visual artist, dancer, musician, filmmaker, etc.) whose work is rooted in a community of color. They will present their artistic productions, visit classes focused on their work, and present their work in venues beyond the Notre Dame campus, either in the greater Michiana community, or virtually in partnering communities across the globe, or both.

2022–23 Natasha Trethewey

Trethewey Natasha Photo 2

Pulitzer Prize-winner Natasha Trethewey served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012–14), while also serving as the Poet Laureate of the State of Mississippi (2012–16). She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir; a book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; and five collections of poetry: Monument: Poems New & Selected, which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award; Thrall; Native Guard, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq’s Ophelia; and Domestic Work, which was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. From 2015-2016, she served as poetry editor of the New York Times Magazine. In 2017 she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities, and in 2020, she received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry from the Library of Congress. A member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2019.

2021–22 Reginald Dwayne Betts

Betts Photo 600x400

Betts is the author of three acclaimed collections of poetry — Felon, Bastards of the Reagan Era, and Shahid Reads His Own Palm — and a memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison. He was awarded a 2021 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and is the recipient of numerous other awards and honors, including an American Book Award, PEN/New England Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Radcliffe Fellowship, and a 2019 National Magazine Award for “Getting Out,” his New York Times Magazine article about his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Fellow; and, a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is a Ph.D. in Law candidate at Yale and he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office as a Liman Fellow.