Highlights from the 2017-2018 Academic Year

Re-Assembling Our Public: Highlights from the 2017-2018 Academic Year

Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor, Berkeley Arts + Design

New leadership and a major anniversary. New staff, new courses, new website, new events… even some new pens! Now that the academic year has come to a close, we at Berkeley Arts + Design would like to take a moment to reflect and to extend our thanks to an incredible community of students, faculty, staff, and community partners.

2018 brought a new Chancellor alongside UC Berkeley’s sesquicentennial, and hence it has been a chance to take stock of a rich history of creative innovation and public impact. From its earliest investments in architecture, poetry, and pragmatic skill-building (thank you John Galen Howard) to today’s wide-ranging interdisciplinary landscape of making and thinking, Berkeley stands out as a uniquely bracing context for creative experimentation: one enriched by the scientific and cultural wealth of a world-class research university; one propelled by our historic commitment to public access and social impact.

We have a particularly rich and creative year behind us with remarkable projects—some familiar and some new. We welcome your continued support and encourage your contribution to our mission.

Creativity and Research

The past year, Augmented and Virtual Reality was one of the most exciting domains of new innovation and creative experimentation at Berkeley. The inherent interdisciplinarity of AR/VR makes it a focal point for A+D and for a campus whose “comprehensive excellence” is matched by our “comprehensive creativity.” Compelling AR/VR projects require the expertise of engineers as well as those who specialize in the creation of image, sound narrative, character, space, and somatic experience. It is also the domain of significant entrepreneurial activity that may well transform a range of sectors in education, medicine, and athletics, as well as the fine and performing arts.

Thanks to a generous donation toward creative innovation in augmented and virtual reality, A+D coordinated and funded a campus-wide AR/VR Month in April. We highlighted a full gamut of AR/VR tools and projects and were thrilled to see so many iterations of these new technologies on display. The busy month of April included conferences at the Berkeley Center for New Media, the HTL Vive Center, and the Film & Media Department, as well as an exhibition of eight new ARVR artworks at the Worth Ryder Gallery. We also had a chance to explore the educational possibilities of AR/VR in a symposium co-sponsored by A+D and the Academic Innovation Studio. Together, these events brought campus innovators from more than a dozen disciplines who shared their work to packed audiences of scholars, artists, students, industry partners, and community members. AR/VR month opened up an imaginative and critical space of engagement as we come to terms with the ethics, aesthetics, and pragmatic implications of these new technologies. We hope this will be a welcome, new tradition for years to come. 

Meanwhile, though only 18 months old, A+D Mondays has fast become a tradition that is here to stay. Propelled by a shared theme of “Public (Re)Assembly,” we partnered with dozens of campus organizations to present a public lecture series that featured the ideas and people that most compel creatively-engaged Berkeley faculty. Huge thanks to A+D’s core partners at Berkeley Center for New Media, Art Practice, the Graduate School of Journalism, the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, College of Environmental Design, the Townsend Center, English, TDPS, BAMPFA, and the Arts Research Center! And hats off to campus sponsors who are integrating the arts into their research mission—including “A+D Plus” partners such as the Multicultural Community Center, the Greater Good Science Center, the Energy Resources Group, the Haas Arts Club, and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society. (We were particularly pleased to welcome Bull.Miletic as CSTMS’s first artists-in-residence and look forward more!) From Arlie Hochschild to Judith Butler, from Isaac Julien to Emily Jacir, from Nick Negroponte to Ian Cheng, each and every speaker addressed the theme of Public (Re) Assembly with fresh and sobering insights, alighting at the conjunction of creativity, new technologies, and public politics. We were especially proud to host Angela Davis, whose event reached more than 1.5 million people on Facebook alone, and to experiment with new livestream communication platforms; in addition to 300 in-person participants in the theatre at BAMPFA, campus and regional partners (from Berkeley, to San Diego, to San Jose, to Davis) hosted “livestream parties,” reaching thousands more viewers online. Our last A+D Monday event with Rebecca Solnit and “friends”—also live-streamed and co-sponsored with the Bay Area Book Festival—-recalled central themes of the year and anticipated more: the role of the arts in the public sphere; the intersections of politics, culture, social media and a post-truth society.

Indeed, this past year’s research and programming events set the tone for our plans in 2018/2019. A+D Mondays will take up the pressing theme of “Fact and Fiction” throughout next year, starting off in September with writer, Roxane Gay, film-maker Amos Gitai, and a roundtable on the role of the arts in climate politics, moderated by Orville Schell. We are also looking forward to the renewal of artist-in-residency programs throughout the Berkeley campus, places where creative minds leverage and catalyze the research culture of the university. Along with upcoming residencies with Amos Gitai in College of Environmental Design, A+D is thrilled to welcome internationally renowned theater artist and Cal alum Stan Lai as a spring artist-in-residence. Working with the Jacobs Institute, TDPS, and other campus organizations, Lai will create a new immersive performance, “AGO,” based on Buddhist tales sourced from different epochs and regions of the world. Look out for announcements about these and other events in August; join us as we create routine gathering spaces for contemplation, deliberation, and imagination.

Creativity and Education

Guided by UC Berkeley’s broader vision for 21st century higher education, A+D seeks to ensure that ‘creativity’ is a core dimension of our students’ educational experience. A range of students took advantage of our Creative Gateway courses: an ever expanding suite of foundational arts education offerings that meet the integrative learning goals of a “creative gateway” experience. These courses serve students of all majors—from business to physics, from architecture to sociology, from biology to dance—and seek to expose them to a range of creative forms across the visual arts, performing arts, literature, film, and design. Thus far, we have reached more than 1,265 students and we are pressing ahead with a continued commitment of expanding and diversifying our offerings.

A flagship course in the creative gateway suite is A+D’s own Thinking Through the Arts and Design. For the third year running, this course was housed at BAMPFA. Organized across a different theme each semester, it includes an embedded public lecture series—A+D Wednesdays—that opens the course to a wider, intergenerational community. In its most recent iterations, we offered Curation across Disciplines, an exploration of the curator function in in the performing arts, the visual arts, film, and in the fields of science and technology, and highlighted the exciting world of the Bay Area’s alternative, underground, and experimental media arts communities in Experimentation and Exploration. The upcoming year will focus on Migration, Transformation, and Creativity. While responding to the current political climate, the courses will address both literal and metaphorical migrations and the rich artistic responses that travel with them.

All of this interdisciplinary creativity in education turns out to be particularly timely for our campus—especially as we rethink and reframe the role of creative Discovery within a 21st Century student experience. Thanks to the leadership of EVCP Paul Alivisatos, VCUE Cathy Koshland, and VCR Randy Katz, “Discovery” is fast becoming a keyword in framing the cross-disciplinary, cross-functional “mash up” that distinguishes so much of Berkeley’s educational potential. As we look ahead, “creative gateways” might be just the beginning of a set of entry points, pathways, and capstone experiences that enable students to cross-pollinate across fields and create innovative, memory-making projects before they graduate.

Frankly, the scaffolding of such Discovery experiences are very much in evidence everywhere you look. The Design Innovation Certificate is just one example. Conceived by faculty in four schools to integrate the offerings of business, engineering, environmental design, and the arts and humanities, this new ‘pathway’ is already incredibly popular and growing steadily. Meanwhile, our student showcases exemplify the products of such inter-departmental, inter-disciplinary mixing. Across campus—from Art Practice to Environmental Design, from the Jacobs Institute to the Fung Institute to TDPS and more—we saw the same sense of cross-pollination. Students in Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literature, Film and Media and Design presented work to the campus and to cultural and industry leaders. These projects will receive honorific display in the third edition of a special end-of-year annual book on that is being Made at Berkeley. In concert with the book, we are thrilled to host the work of numerous students, faculty and alumni on our Made at Berkeley gallery on the new A+D website. Check back often to see the fruits of Creative Discovery.

Creativity and Community

A+D is driven by the mission of cultural equity and by the belief in the arts as a place of exchange amongst people of all classes and cultures. Berkeley has an incredibly diverse student body and is amongst the most successful national institutions in advancing citizens from the lowest income strata to the highest income strata. We are committed to embedding creativity into UC Berkeley’s unparalleled engine of social mobility. All evidence shows that a commitment to creativity produces a sense of belonging amongst our students while building bridges between our campus and our local and global communities.

Our brand new Arts Passport is one important step in fulfilling that commitment. Launched on Cal Day, the passport—inside a newly redesigned UC Berkeley mobile app—was downloaded more than 14,000 times in the first week. Since then, more than 400 students have taken advantage of free tickets and special offers at on-campus organizations such as Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Cal Performances, Department of Music, and the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies season; and at off-campus partners that included SFMOMA, OMCA, the Bay Area Book Festival, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, amongst many others. The Arts Passport prototype was possible thanks to the ingenuity and energy of MEng students at the Fung Institute and our growing partnership with campus IT and Public Affairs. We were particularly thrilled to collaborate with the Bay Area Book Festival this year, not only sponsoring exciting programs, but also facilitating access to the festival for 1000 students!

In the year ahead, we will continue to provide arts access and career development opportunities for our students at institutions on campus and across the Bay Area. Working with the Public Service Center, the Career Center, and numerous campus and regional organizations, A+D is facilitating processes of placement and academic credit for creative internships, including PSC volunteer arts teaching for Cal students in local public schools (C.R.E.A.T.E.) and dozens of internships in arts administration in regional organizations. A+D also partnered with local arts institutions on career mentorship, including mixers with Bay Area cultural leaders and sponsoring student clubs. We were so glad to welcome so many of our Bay Area community partners to a festive End of Year Celebration and Regional Arts Partner Preview. Stay tuned for more exciting community collaborations in the coming year!

Creativity and Communication

On a campus as large as Berkeley, communication can be a challenge, and that is especially the case for a creative landscape as robust and as diffuse as ours. At A+D, we believe that communication is a form of care; it facilitates connection to our community members and helps our students establish a sense of belonging on campus. In the past year, A+D has made substantial strides in this domain, working with hundreds of faculty, alums, and campus organizations to create new multi-organizational communication platforms. We kicked off the year with an award-winning (truly!) Snapchat tour of Berkeley’s creative landscape, receiving more than 200,000 views in five days and queuing up on-the-ground A+D campus tours throughout the Fall Golden Bears Orientation. We rolled out similar social platforms throughout the year—for Homecoming, Big Give, and Cal Day. The overwhelming response speaks to both the importance and success of increased awareness of the creative culture of UC Berkeley. Indeed, thanks to the leadership of A+D Communications Manager, Sarah Fullerton, A+D was thrilled to receive an award for Best Social Media Campaign of the year from the Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, Diana Harvey.

In parallel with our social media outreach, we have been improving and updating our website. The site offers one ‘front door’ for students and community members who seek information, advice, and access to our creative landscape, featuring over 25 departments, 40 centers and presenting venues, and 80 student clubs. Highlights can be found daily in News and Events; viewers can see the range and scope of talented Berkeley students, faculty and alumni in our Made at Berkeley gallery, and students can explore classes, public lectures, student clubs and campus experiences in programs from Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literature, Film, Media, and Design. In the past year, the website had more than 65,000 website views; moreover, users stayed on our website more than five times longer than the average campus site.

We look forward to more “creative communication” amongst our allied campus organizations, and are actively developing strategies to help students and our community navigate the breadth and diversity of Berkeley’s landscape more efficiently. Check out our video archive of exciting lectures on demand; sign up for a tour with one of the 72 student ambassadors who are leading A+D creative tours of our campus. This summer, we will roll out new functions to our website—including “Student Resources” (with a curated feed on Creative Career opportunities) and “Berkeley beyond Berkeley,” a special section that shares off-campus events and programs that feature Berkeley students, faculty, and alumni. (And we will add an AVCAD blog on timely issues and ‘tales from the field,’ penned by yours truly.) With these and other new additions, we hope to make more lively and meaningful connections across campus as well as anchor our work in the wider world.

Creativity and Infrastructure

Absolutely none of the above is possible without necessary infrastructure; all frontstage A+D activity needs a robust backstage, and for us, that backstage includes facilities, technologies, financial resources, and talented people to run it all.

Berkeley was the first campus in what would become a 10-campus system for the University of California. Our buildings carry an extraordinary history, and we have a responsibility to sustain this heritage. We await a large and comprehensive master space plan that will assess current facilities and allow us to create a viable and compelling renovation of our campus creative infrastructure, including its studios, theaters, galleries, innovation labs, and flexible classroom spaces. In the near term, A+D is coordinating interim renovation projects that anticipate a wider expansion of our creative infrastructure. We soon hope to break ground on a first floor renovation on our beloved—if aging—Dwinelle Annex, producing a new “active learning classroom” for our campus and a flexible convening space for workshops, conferences, showcases, and think-tanks. Looking ahead, we are excited by the plans of many campus organizations to build and fortify new spaces of media innovation at the HTL Vive Center, in the Moffitt Library, in the College of Environmental Design, and in the Digital Media Lab network of the Arts & Humanities.

Meanwhile, as A+D’s reach has grown, so has our team: we are excited to have effectively doubled our staff in the month of April. We are thrilled to welcome Massimo Pacchione as new A+D Director of Programs and Operations, and Les Gorske, our new Manager of Student Engagement and Education. Together, with Communications Manager Sarah Fullerton, Executive Assistant Amber Fogarty, and the many, many campus partners with whom we collaborate, we look forward to supporting our campus and our communities more fully.

As always, we would like to express our sincerest gratitude to our generous donors for their much-needed support. We are grateful for any donated contribution, no matter how small or how large, but we are particularly grateful to Coleman Fung, Reid Hoffman, Charles Huang, Jackie Jackson, Pam Kramlich, Dick Kramlich, Eric McDougall, Nancy Olson, George Strompolos, Susan Swig, Jan and Buzz Weisenfeld, and Michelle Yee for their deep commitment to the A+D mission and for making so much possible this year.

A+D will play its part in propelling Berkeley’s legacy into the future, all the while keeping alive, expanding, and reinventing our shared creative spirit. As the flagship campus of the University of California, Berkeley is not only one of the oldest educational institutions, but also one of the oldest public institutions in the state. We are simultaneously a place of tradition and culture, a place of learning and innovation, and a place of public dialogue and community. Creativity is essential to the history and to the future of this place. As we wrap up and look forward to more, we would like to thank YOU… our students, staff, and faculty; our speakers; our visitors and partners in the Bay Area and beyond. In every sense, you shape UC Berkeley, our work, our communities: in the past, the present, and into the next 150 years.