by Rachel Routier

University of Northern Iowa (UNI) alumnus, Abinadi Meza, received the Rome Prize, presented by the American Academy in Rome (AAR). Each year, thirty artist and scholars are selected for the prize as a representation the highest standard of excellence.

Meza was selected to be one of the thirty award recipients by panels that include a variety of disciplines.

The prize includes a variety of disciplines including architecture, design, historic preservation and conservation, landscape architecture, literature, music composition, visual arts, ancient studies, medieval studies, Renaissance and early modern studies and modern Italian studies.

Meza was selected for his contributions to the visual arts discipline.

In response to receiving the award, Meza said, “I'm at an exciting point in my career, where my work is expanding its international reach. The Rome Prize is a great honor, and will help me take my work to new audiences.”

Meza received Bachelor of Arts degrees in art and creative writing from UNI.

Miza said of his time at UNI, “I had a number of formative experiences at UNI; the Department of Art gave me the perfect balance of freedom to experiment, critical guidance, and support. Particularly, at the time I was there, they awarded undergraduate research awards; I applied for and received these to study 'in the field' and take my work to a new place - literally and figuratively speaking.”

His favorite memory at UNI is from a class with Art Department Head, Jeffry Byrd. Meza recalled, “I once built a pair of 16-foot 'shoes' for a group of people to mobilize. This was for Professor Jeffery Byrd’s Performance Art class. They were essentially long wooden planks resembling Japanese geta. I led the class on an attempted group walk across campus; it was hilarious. Luckily, Professor Byrd videotaped it. I hope he still has the recording.”

Since UNI, Meza has remained busy and integrated into the world of art, including artist’s residencies, exhibits, creating films, performing live sound art, and teaching at art schools including the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the University of Houston, where he currently teaches.

“I accepted my current position at the University of Houston to start up their new Interdisciplinary Practices and Emerging Forms MFA program,” said Meza. “It's an exciting role to be in. I teach a number of conceptual studio classes and critical studies seminars. I love it.” 

Meza said he is excited to live in Rome and will be there for about a year.

Besides the Rome Prize, Meza’s work has been supported by numerous foundations and institutions. It has been shown in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, New Zealand and Brazil, to name a few places.

Meza earned a Master of Fine Arts in art from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture after his time at UNI. For more information about Meza, check out his blog.