McGovern College professor and artist traveling to Wales as Fulbright Scholar - University of Houston
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Claremarie Verheyen

Sculpture department program coordinator Jillian Conrad will create “map drawings” of sacred Welsh sites


This Fall, McGovern College of the Arts Associate Professor and artist Jillian Conrad will head to Wales as a Fulbright Scholar. Her Fulbright proposal, titled “Holy Hole,” centers on holy wells in Wales, natural springs revered for centuries by the local populace. These wells, steeped in history and tradition, have witnessed myriad cultural shifts and power struggles throughout the ages.

“Holy wells are natural springs found throughout the UK, including Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. They have been venerated by people in these regions for thousands of years,” Conrad said.

“The Celts, Romans, and various invaders seeking power often commandeered these wells, which were crucial to the local folk culture and history. Those in power—whether Protestants during the Reformation, Catholics, or other Christians—would often rename the wells based on their own ideologies or saints.”

While based at Cardiff University from September to January 2025, Conrad will visit these wells to create drawings inspired by traditional map formats, focusing on the liminal zones where water transitions from underground to above ground. Through these "map drawings," Conrad aims to capture the elusive nature of the wells, as well as how their significance in Welsh folklore and history has evolved.

“What fascinates me is the name changes and language shifts over time,” Conrad said. “I aim to chart these changes in my drawings using the format of a map.”

With a background in sculpture and classical studies, Conrad seeks to explore the intricate relationship between abstract concepts and their physical manifestations.

“In my work, I engage with both natural and built landscapes. This includes not only the natural environment but also architecture, building materials, and everyday objects,” Conrad said. “My art reflects on these elements, seeking to understand and depict the interplay between abstract ideas and their tangible expressions in the world around us.”

Conrad’s work has been exhibited at and supported by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bronx Museum, Smack Mellon, Socrates Sculpture Park, and more. Her recent solo exhibitions include The Earth as Air, Un Lieu Une Oeuvre, Ménerbes, France (2023), Hydras, BioScience Research Center, Rice University, Houston (2022), and Airspace, Devin Borden Gallery, Houston (2019). She has garnered widespread acclaim, with reviews in esteemed publications including Artforum and the New York Times.

For Conrad, being selected as a Fulbright Scholar is a testament to the significance of scholarly exchange and international collaboration. The Fulbright program, established by the U.S. government, facilitates these exchanges, enabling scholars to share their research with global audiences.

“These awards highlight the profound impact of scholarly exchanges,” Conrad said.

“The essence of the Fulbright program is to connect researchers like myself with colleagues worldwide, fostering a cross-cultural exchange that enriches our collective knowledge and contributes to global understanding—ultimately making the world a better place.”

To learn more about Jillian Conrad and her work, visit