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Reflections on a vibrant year with our arts and design community

It’s been quite a year—for our country, for UC Berkeley, and for the Arts + Design Initiative.  We have navigated changes in our political landscape and confronted the challenge of maintaining free speech and freedom of assembly. At UC Berkeley, we are also welcoming a new Chancellor -- Carol Christ will be the first woman to lead our campus.  Amid these and other changes, we at the Arts + Design Initiative have steered ahead, responding nimbly to new developments while maintaining our mission to propel creativity for the greater good.  We are proud to give you a snapshot of our achievements over the last year, including successes on both the frontstage and backstage of campus collaboration.  We are thrilled to work with such visionary organizations, faculty, staff, and students as we unify, fortify, and amplify UC Berkeley’s tremendous creative culture.  We welcome continued support and encourage you to explore ways to contribute to the mission of the Arts + Design Initiative.

Creativity and Research

The Arts + Design Initiative is committed to fostering dynamic collaboration, innovation, and public access across all arts and design fields, on campus and in public life. 

Our sponsored lecture series Arts + Design Mondays @ BAMPFA featured cultural leaders, artists, and educators from Berkeley and around the world who spoke about the future of creativity and the public sphere in a mediated world.  The series was organized in collaboration with several campus organizations including the Berkeley Center for New Media, the Arts Research Center, the Townsend Center, the School of Journalism, and more. Whether you want to hear Judith Butler and Maggie Nelson in conversation, are interested to learn more about media art from Andy and Deborah Rappaport, or want to hear luminaries (and Cal alumni) such as George Strompolos, John Horn or Dave Pell speak about the effects of digital technologies on public dialogue, access to these and other inspiring lectures can now be found free of charge on our website.  While we’re taking a break for the summer, know that we will launch the series anew in this fall under the theme of Public (Re)Assembly, a topic that continues our exploration of the changing role of the arts, politics, digital technologies, journalism, and higher education on the future of public life.

Research and innovation continued on other fronts as well. Working in league with the Arts Research Center and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Shannon Jackson and Paula Marincola co-edited a new keyword anthology In Terms of Performance to provoke discovery across artistic disciplines. The new site -- featuring Berkeley faculty and many of our artistic partners--was previewed at the Tate Modern and will be featured at the Venice Biennale’s Research Pavilion along with the research of several Berkeley faculty.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, multiple campus programs have begun new research collaborations in the arts and design; stay tuned to hear more about experiments in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality that bring together students and faculty from Engineering, Architecture, Art Practice, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, Film and Media, and Journalism.

Creativity and Education

The arts and design fields provide opportunities for students of all majors to develop skills in project-based learning, group collaboration, critical thinking, and self-expression.  Guided by our campus’s broader vision for 21st century higher education, we seek to ensure that ‘creativity’ is a core dimension of the student experience at Berkeley.

This year we had the great privilege of continuing and expanding our creative ‘gateway’ course: Thinking Through the Arts and Design at Berkeley. Working with the theme of “California Countercultures,” this year’s version was co-taught by Michael Cohen and Cal alumna Natasha Boas and supported by Big Ideas Courses, the Arts + Design Initiative, and the Mellon-sponsored programs of Cal Performances. Housed at BAMPFA, the course continued its innovative model—exposing students to a range of creative forms, providing access to performances and exhibitions throughout the campus, and including an embedded public lecture series that opened the course to our intergenerational community.  We were thrilled to welcome Bay Area luminaries such as Ishmael Reed, Dena Beard, Peter Coyote, Stephanie Syjuco, V. Vale, and many more. To continue to propel and inspire, the public lectures are now available on our website free of charge for public viewing. We’re excited to announce that Thinking Through the Arts and Design at Berkeley will continue throughout next year with new themes and new events. The fall theme will focus on Curation Across Disciplines, co-taught by Natasha Boas, Eric Siegel, and Shannon Jackson, and the spring theme will focus on Bay Area cultural tradition, taught by Jeffrey Skoller.

While TTAD@B is one exciting new format, in fact we have been privileged to support a range of new creative educational programs for the coming year. Thanks to a donation to the Arts + Design Initiative, the Undergraduate Creative Curriculum subcommittee --  led by CED Dean Jennifer Wolch and Arts & Humanities Dean Anthony Cascardi -- devised and expanded eleven course offerings to meet the integrative learning goals of a “creative gateway” experience; check out this list of incredible Creative Gateway experiences for 2017/2018.  

Along with creative gateway experiences, we are also on the road to developing new creative pathways that cross a range of disciplines. Certainly, the most exciting development this year was the launch of the new Design Innovation Certificate, an educational program conceived by faculty in four schools to integrate the offerings of business, engineering, environmental design, and the arts. This collaborative, cross-disciplinary platform will be a model for future educational innovation.  

At the culmination of each semester, we visited student showcases across the campus, from Art Practice to Environmental Design to the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation and more. Students in Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literature, Film and Media and Design presented work to the campus and to cultural and industry leaders, providing a terrific transition to new careers after graduation. To feature these great projects, the Arts + Design Initiative collaborated with the Daily Cal to highlight showcases and extend their reach to a broader public. Thanks to our collaboration with Cal alumna, Kimberly Brooks, a selection of these projects will be archived in the second edition of a special end-of-year annual book that features what’s being Made at Berkeley. In concert with the book, we’re thrilled to host the work of numerous students, faculty and alumni on our Made at Berkeley gallery on the new Arts + Design website.

Donations made to the Arts + Design Initiative enable the continued success and accessibility of this kind of innovative educational programming, while ensuring that our students’ creative work is publicly shared.

Creativity and Community

For the Arts + Design Initiative, sustaining creativity in our community means devising regional partnerships with arts organizations and industries while also ensuring that our students have broad access to the arts in all parts of their lives, on and off campus. It is apparent that now, more than ever, we must champion and highlight the social good that the arts bring to daily life, at Berkeley and around the world. 

At the national level, we believe that advocacy is necessary.  Associate Vice Chancellor of the Arts + Design, Shannon Jackson, made a public statement in response to the Trump Administration's threats to defund the NEA, NEH, and IMLS. With the release of the administration’s proposed budget this month, these vital programs remain on a pathway to elimination. We encourage you to consult the N.E.A.’s helpful guidelines for advocacy here.

Support is needed at the regional level as well. This year, we responded to tragedy and to threats to our creative community by coming together and speaking out. In the wake of the tragic Ghost Ship fire, we spoke out and partnered with the Arts Research Center and the David Brower Center to host Urban Ghosts: The Future of Artists, Place and Displacement in the American City.  

As the year continued, we at the Arts + Design Initiative focused on necessary conversations and relationships, while highlighting cultural equity and the importance of public (re)assembly around the values we hold most dear. Whether it was a public discussion about The Arts and Public Service at SFMOMA or faculty participation on bracing panels at the Oakland Book Festival and the Bay Area Book Festival, leaders in the Berkeley Arts + Design community engaged in discussions and took action around cultural equity and the arts.

While these wider debates unfold, we are happy to report that this is a very exciting time for the arts and cultural equity within the city of Berkeley.  As a Civic Arts Commissioner for Berkeley, AVCAD Shannon Jackson has been privileged to work with civic leaders on a number of initiatives, including a new “Percent for Art” program for the city of Berkeley, a Chancellor’s Grant-funded study of arts education in Berkeley public schools, and a new Cultural Plan for the city.  Indeed, if you are a Berkeley resident (and students who live in Berkeley, that means you!), we strongly encourage you to fill out this survey so that you can help us to envision a thriving future for the city’s cultural life.

Such local and national connections help us to establish relationships with partnering organizations in the non-profit cultural sector and with industry. This year, the Arts + Design Initiative was privileged to work with local institutions to ensure arts accessibility for all Berkeley students.  We were thrilled when the Cal Student leaders of C.R.E.A.T.E. received a Civic Arts grant to fortify their essential volunteer role in providing arts education to the Berkeley public school system.  Other external partners helped to organize everything from a master class with Architect Jiminez Lai at SFMOMA to attendance at a Berkeley sponsored performance at the San Francisco Opera for more than 100 students, alumni, and faculty.  (The fact that the SF Opera featured Cal alum, Stan Lai, as director was a special thrill!)

With continued collaboration from campus organizations such as Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Cal Performances, Department of Music, and the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies season, we piloted a modest mobile arts platform with the Berkeley Smart Wallet.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the goals of our mobile arts platform continued to advance; sponsored by Coleman Fung and Rick Passov, we hosted a Digital Arts Access think tank with CTO William Allison, arts and design campus leaders, and several visionary entrepreneurs in the field of digital arts engagement.  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.

Creativity and Communication

Everything we do at the Arts + Design Initiative allows and requires communication internally amongst many campus organizations and externally between our campus and the wider public. Thanks to dozens of collaborating faculty, students, staff, and alumni (especially Gina Pell, our pro bono Creative Director), we launched our new inclusive Arts + Design website in March.  After more than a year of planning, design, and development, the website serves as a foundation to highlight the incredible, creative work of the Berkeley campus. 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. Since the launch of the website, our communications department has been working closely with units across campus to organize social media campaigns and press coverage to bring awareness about our creative culture. This April, we worked with 15 units and partnered with BAMPFA to create a campus wide Cal Day Instagram tour and scavenger hunt for incoming students, culminating in a live stream on the all of the screens at BAMPFA. 

Coming up this August, we are thrilled to have been asked by Rec Sports to organize an Arts District at this year’s Caltopia. That same week, AVCAD Shannon Jackson will be hosting a campus tour for incoming students during Golden Bears Orientation.  Now that our A+D website is up and running -- with its wide embrace of our rich creative culture -- we look forward to more “creative communication” amongst our allied campus organizations in the coming year.

Creativity and Infrastructure

As we think ahead to the future of our creative campus and the future of its historic infrastructure, we have been proud to work directly with Interim Provost and Chancellor Designate Carol Christ to develop bold cross campus collaborations and fundraising goals to serve the growth of our community.  Indeed, in one of her first campus events after being named Chancellor Designate, Carol Christ co-hosted our Arts + Design Development retreat with campus leaders from across the arts, humanities, environmental design, engineering, and journalism, as well as leaders of our campus museums, presenters, and student organizations.  With eloquence and precision, Christ invited us to continue strategic partnership amongst all of our organizations in order to plot a visionary capital campaign for the Arts + Design, one that recalls the best of our campus heritage while envisioning an innovative creative future that emboldens the public good.

As we look ahead to that future, we are grateful for the programmatic developments we have already achieved. Whether we are welcoming students of all majors or welcoming community members of all generations, whether we are working with our campus organizations or with our Bay Area partners, our goal is to advance creative innovation for the public good. We are indebted to our generous donors who have committed to sustaining our multi-pronged mission over the last year. We welcome future supporters who believe that Berkeley has a special capacity and responsibility to sustain creativity for the greater good.  Finally, we especially wish to recognize and thank our community for generously supporting the Arts + Design Initiative with donations, sponsorships and grants.