New Faculty Profile: Alexandra Hidalgo’s Academic-Artistic Entanglements

Alexandra Hidalgo HeadshotThe English department's Crow Chair position, named for the late professor Charles Crow, was founded in 2007 following a grant from Pitt alumnus Thomas H. McIntosh. McIntosh, who was, notably, not an English major, said at the time that the grant was in honor of a "memorable and valuable teacher, whose guidance to me as a freshman composition student was much appreciated then and later in my career." Since then, the position has been occupied first by Dave Bartholomae and now, Alexandra Hidalgo, who became Crow Chair in fall 2022.

Hidalgo describes herself as a "filmmaker, theorist, and editor," and is known especially for her wide-ranging body of award-winning work—both in the world of film, in which she makes everything from documentaries to video books to video essays, and in the world of writing, where she has been published in a variety of academic contexts.

For the wealth of artistic work that Hidalgo has created, it might be worth wondering how the lifestyle of academia fits into the visual media world in which she has so solidly found a place. For Hidalgo, though, it's not so much about finding a place for her creative work in the midst of a demanding academic career; rather, it's about letting the two naturally intersect.

“For me, the artistic and the academic are inseparable,” Hidalgo said. “My whole career as a scholar, I've used my artistic pursuits to help me think about scholarship in new ways, to take a lot of the best things you learn about making art and put it in conversation with some of the best things you learn about doing rhetoric.” 

There isn’t one set point, for Hidalgo, where her creative mindset ends and her intellectual mindset begins; it’s all part, it seems, of one larger interconnected web. Hidalgo said that she has very little difficulty finding a balance between her film projects and her academic endeavors. Instead, she sees academia as a great environment for fostering artistic work. 

Some of that is the job security that comes with academic work—the elimination of anxiety over where her next paycheck is coming from can allow her to pick up projects that she’s truly passionate about, she said. But just as important is the way that academia allows her to surround herself with talented people, Hidalgo said, whether she’s drawing inspiration from a community of brilliant colleagues or a cohort of imaginative students.   

She was particularly excited about the class that she was teaching this past fall, Professional Uses of Social Media, a course that, she said, brings to light a new level of experience for academia and scholarship to exist within. “For many years now, we have started to do scholarship in another medium, whether it be hypertext or video essays or podcasts—or some people do comics as scholarship,” she told me.

Hidalgo said that this entanglement of the artistic and academic is nothing particularly new to her career, or even her adult life. From a young age, she already had the pieces in place that would serve her career down the line. She always wanted to be involved in the realm of education and can recall wanting to be a first-grade teacher in the first grade, a high school teacher in high school, and so on.   

She always knew that she wanted to be a writer, too. She’s seen herself as such, she said, probably because she comes from a long line of writers, at least on her father’s side. Her most recent film, a documentary entitled A Family of Stories, centers around her father Miguel Hidalgo and his disappearance into the Venezuelan Amazon in 1983, when she was six years old. 

It was acting, though, that helped to spark her interest in the world of film. She said that she remembers becoming interested in theater following her immigration to Dayton, Ohio, from Venezuela at 16.   

“The point is,” she explained, “I wanted to do all these things. I wanted to teach, I wanted to write stories. I wanted to be on camera or on stage—all those things were important to me, always, from the start…I ended up having a job where I am an academic, but I'm also a writer and I'm also on camera.”

—Rebecca Reese

Rebecca Reese, T5F communications intern in the Fall 2022 term, is a senior Writing (fiction) student with a minor in English Literature and a certificate in Television and Broadcasting Arts.


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