UNC junior Joshua Massey named Beinecke Scholar

The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 by the Board of Directors of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company to honor Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke. The Board created an endowment to provide substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women of exceptional promise.

The Beinecke Scholarship provides $34,000 to support graduate education. Students receive an initial $4,000 during their senior year and the remaining $30,000 is distributed within a two-to five-year period while the student completes graduate studies. Beinecke Scholars are considered for superior strength of character, intellectual ability, and sense of purpose.

Originally from Denver, North Carolina, Massey is a double major in American Studies and English/Comparative Literature, minoring in Art History. He has a near perfect GPA of 3.95. Massey’s interest in material culture has served as the intellectual foundation for his work at UNC and later inspired other academic interests in African-American art and expressive culture, poetics and semiotics, literature and literary studies, and music.

During his first year of university studies, Massey began volunteer work as a student guide at the Ackland Art Museum, where he developed an object-based tour, “Masks and Their Manifestations in Art.” As an Ackland Student Guide—a selective program in which undergraduates from all disciplines learn to teach in the museum and give thematic tours to the public—Massey excelled under the leadership of Elizabeth Manekin, Head of Academic Programs at the Ackland Museum. Massey conducted research on the collection and workshopped best practices in object-based pedagogy. In describing his contributions, Manekin writes, “he cultivated a profound respect and capacity for the language of things themselves. He approaches their analysis with rigor, synthesizing his own observations and findings with those he researches to craft original arguments.”

In 2019, Massey was one of 35 UNC honors students selected to study in London. His research project for the semester revolved around a Renaissance saltcellar he encountered on his first visit to the British Museum. Massey explored the material properties and utilitarian, social, and cultural functions of this type of decorative object by independently arranging site visits to study all the extant sixteenth-century saltcellars now in London.

Returning to Chapel Hill, Massey began working on the first collection of spoken-word poetry by American artist, musician, and poet Lonnie Holley. Holley’s spoken-word poetry, spanning nearly four decades, traverses genre and media. His work fostered Massey’s interest in poetics and the materiality of language, and forms the foundation for his prospective honors thesis, “The Music Lives After The Instrument Is Destroyed,” which will focus on the play between language and image in Holley’s visual art and poetry. Massey’s work on the collection of Holley’s spoken-word poetry, Wordsmithing, is likely to be published in 2022. As his advisor and collaborator, Dr. Bernie Herman, the George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore, as well as Adjunct professor in Art History, explains, “This manuscript will be the first book on Holley’s spoken poetry…a truly significant project that will discover a larger national audience.” Mr. Massey’s project is a freestanding element in a larger initiative centered on a planned spring 2022 exhibition, “The Unfinished Business of Unsettled Things: Art from an African-American South,” at UNC’s Ackland Art Museum.

Massey is passionate about material culture and committed to its study at the graduate level. He plans to enroll in a graduate program focusing on material culture studies, combining research interests in poetics, art, language, semiotics of landscape, psychogeography, folklore, history, and aesthetics. After graduate school, he plans to enter academia as a lecturing professor or a professor of the practice working with art and his other intellectual interests either in the classroom or in the museum space.