Renata Gross Horowitz, a fourth-year in the College, is being remembered by family and friends as a deeply engaged student and leader who was also a talented artist immersed in filmmaking and photography.
She concentrated in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities and was working on a BA involving the classification and destigmatization of PTSD and mental illness. Horowitz died April 8 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident while traveling to the Badlands of South Dakota. She was 21.
“Renata was a brilliant artist in many media—visually inspired, formally rigorous, narratively rich and attuned to sound,” said Lauren Berlant, the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in English.
“She was also such a thoughtful reader of theory and history: committed to her views, and at the same time, open to new ways of thinking about generating better worlds, discourses and institutions,” Berlant added. “She read across disciplines and genres voraciously and with an attitude of generous criticism. Working with her was a genuine pleasure.”
Horowitz worked at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, where she helped support the creation of a documentary on UChicago’s music collective Contempo and coordinated the performance of a Chinese opera troupe as part of the Envisioning China Festival.
“We were very fortunate that one of the places that Renata chose to lend her considerable talents was the Logan Center for the Arts,” said Bill Michel, executive director of the Logan Center. “As an artist and student intern, Renata’s exceptional ability to accomplish almost any task with warmth and creativity contributed greatly to the artistic community at the Logan Center and throughout the University.”
Fourth-year Camila Palomino, who lived with Horowitz for four years, called her “an alien—an otherworldly being who shared her passions with everyone she came by. She was a muse, an artist, a lover, an explorer and creator of worlds.”
Fourth-year Allison Torem added: “Not only was she understanding, so supportive and had a great sense of humor, but she is the kind of person who I think bad male screenwriters base their ‘manic pixie dream girl’ characters on. She was so sincere and energetic and wanted so thoroughly to live life with the firmest embrace of human connection, spiritual and physical adventure.”
Her family remembers Horowitz’s compassion and empathy for her diverse circle of friends. “She loved the friends and academic mentors that she met at the University,” said her father, Harold Horowitz. “We will miss her raucous laugh, robust debates and vivid presence,” he added. The family recalls “her enormous zest for life,” and that she loved travel, dance and reading.
Renata Horowitz also was deeply committed to activism. Having studied at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City, she became determined to provide more opportunities for young black dancers. She collaborated with a newly formed non-profit organization called Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, spearheading fundraising and communications efforts, including making a film for the group’s website. Her family also cited her 2015 summer internship at Lawyers for Children in New York City, which inspired her engagement in issues at the intersection of the legal, mental health and child protection systems, with the goal of improving services and changing public policy. At the time of her death, she was finalizing a documentary about the experiences of UChicago students who had been admitted to Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.
She is survived by her father, Harold Horowitz; her mother, Amie Gross; her stepmother, Susan Epstein; her siblings, Azra Horowitz and Alison Epstein; her stepsister, Lauren Binet, and her step-grandfather Harold Epstein.
Services were held April 12 in New York City. The College is planning a memorial service. Contributions in her memory may be made to LifeSource Organ and Tissue Donations, Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet or Lawyers for Children.