Grad Students Nab Collecting Prizes

Next time you consider throwing out that beloved collection of Marvel comic books you’ve been collecting since birth, think again. Like the winners of the Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting, you too could get paid for your passion.

This year’s prizes were awarded to Ph.D. student Drew M. Massey and third-year graduate student Grete T. Viddal in a ceremony at Houghton Library yesterday. The prizes are given annually to one or several individuals whose collection of books or works of art exemplify “the traditions of breadth, coherence, and imagination” promoted by former Houghton curator Philip Hofer ’21.

“It’s really about consistency and imagination, not cost and rarity,” said Hope Mayo, one of the five members on the prize selection committee and the current curator of Houghton’s department of printing and graphic arts, which was created by Hofer.

Massey, a lover of music and a student in historical musicology, snagged the $2,000 first prize for his collection “Visual Muse,” which consists of images of music and musicians from 1800 to the present that he and his partner Gabe Boyers have gathered over the years.

Massey said that when he first heard about this award, he suggested to Boyers, “Why don’t we just put together what’s on the walls and tell people about it?”

The committee, comprised of Mayo, two representatives from Houghton Library, and two representatives from the Fogg Museum, was impressed by Massey’s personal connection to these works of art, Mayo said.

Massey added that the collection is a “way of remembering things.”

“It’s a way of keeping some beauty in my life,” he said.

Viddal’s $1,000 second prize-winning collection, “The Devotional Arts of Haitian Vodou,” found its roots in an African dance class Viddal took in college. She became fascinated with the origins and the context of various Haitian dance moves, an interest that took her to Haiti four times to study the interconnectivity of the religion, performance, music, and dance of Haitian Vodou.

“I’ve been astounded with the intensity and creativity of religious art [in Haiti],” Viddal said. “There’s an incredibly vibrant tradition of religious art.”

Viddal is currently a third-year graduate student in the department of African and African-American studies, where she is also a Teaching Fellow. She said that she wanted to bring this often-misunderstood art to a wider audience.

“Because of people’s stereotypes of Haiti, because it’s perceived as a place that’s dangerous to visit,” Viddal said, “I don’t think it has the outlet it deserves.”

Viddal said that she plans to use the prize money to visit Haiti and help local artists sell their work.