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UCIRA Artist Brings Music and Mentorship to Local Schools

19 Dec

UC Santa Barbara Brings Music and Mentorship to Local Schools

Source: University of California, Santa Barbara
Thursday, December 13, 2012
UC Santa Barbara Brings Music and Mentorship to Local Schools

The notes float in fits and starts, bubbles of whimsy breaking the surface. A music lesson is under way.

Selena Ross, a second-year student at UC Santa Barbara, is sharing her instrument and her expertise with Jasmine, an Isla Vista Elementary pupil and participant in the afterschool program that brought the pair together. Ross is mentoring Jasmine in music –– and tutoring her in math –– as a volunteer for a campus-based student organization and nonprofit called The MUSIC Club.

More commonly known by its acronym than its full name –– Musicians United in Supplemental Instruction for Children –– the club sends music-inclined college students into elementary schools, providing homework help and instrument instruction for underprivileged youth.

“It’s a wonderful experience to see all these kids so thrilled by music and instruments,” said Ross, a double major in sociology and English who is the club’s co-president and on-site coordinator for Isla Vista Elementary. “They love to learn. The fact that we’re able to work with these kids especially is such an important part of the program, and I feel we can have a true impact on kids who really appreciate it.”

And that’s the whole point. In 2006, on a $10,000 service-project grant from the Donald Strauss Foundation, founder Areo Saffarzadeh (’07, business economics, biology) positioned music as a means of academic motivation for underprivileged children: Bang out the homework, then bang on the piano.

The MUSIC Club functions exactly the same way today, partnering with established afterschool programs to deliver its vision to socioeconomically disadvantaged fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in Goleta. Volunteers from UCSB –– the club averages more than 20 active mentors each quarter –– visit Isla Vista and El Camino elementary schools each afternoon. They have also served students from La Patera Elementary through an afterschool program at the Boys & Girls Club in Goleta.

“What makes being involved with this program so refreshing is these kids, because learning music, for them, is a huge privilege,” said David Lee, the group’s executive director and a UCSB alumnus (’11, biopsychology). “For them there is no entitlement. They love learning music and they know that when they work hard, behave well, and do their homework, they get to learn music. They don’t have to, they get to, and that makes teaching and working with them all the better for us. That’s a huge part of why we stay focused on serving an underserved population –– to open the opportunity to learn music to people who otherwise may not be able to.”

That opportunity may one day be available to additional children, and not just in the immediate area. Local growth is imminent, said Lee, but The MUSIC Club’s long-range goals also include expanding its efforts elsewhere by launching new chapters, or satellite operations, on other college campuses with underprivileged youth nearby. They also aspire to a capital project, aiming to eventually offer a music and tutoring site that could be shared by multiple programs.

The organization’s steadfast devotion to engaging kids through music has struck a chord with teachers, who credit the still-small club with big impact.

“As a music teacher, I know in my core that music is essential for the development of children –– for their neural development, for their social development, for their self-esteem, and for the pure joy that it brings them,” said Blair Looker, a music and art teacher at Isla Vista Elementary. “So when I see The MUSIC Club bringing both one-on-one mentoring, tutoring for children, and music, I think it’s the best of both worlds … It’s all part of a large dialogue between these excellent mentors and our young students, and I value it totally.”

Looker has known The MUSIC Club since its 2006 inception, when Saffarzadeh and four friends first showed up at her school. She has since become an active advocate for the nascent nonprofit, recently joining its board of directors, and, through her Looker Family Foundation, awarding the group a $10,000 grant.

“It is a strong organization that has grown into a really coherent program,” Looker said. “I’m really appreciative of their vision and I think it’s a model that can be used throughout the UC system –– at the minimum –– statewide, and possibly nationwide. It’s a beautiful, simple model that enriches the UCSB students that are giving of their talent, and completely feeds and nourishes our students.”

Such strong belief in the group appears to be growing. As a registered student organization and community nonprofit, The MUSIC Club has received a $2,000 grant from the UC Institute for Research in the Arts, and a $2,000 Community Arts Enrichment Grant through the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, in addition to the Looker Foundation award.

“Funding for arts education is oftentimes targeted as one of the lowest priorities when budgets are reduced for K-12 public education,” said Catherine Boyer, acting director of Student Affairs Grants and Development. “The Looker Foundation gift demonstrates a strong commitment to both nurture the arts and make arts opportunities accessible for all our children. It also inspires our UCSB students to live their dreams: our student musicians are teaching their love of music to the next generation.”


What Do We Really Know About People Who Get Arts Degrees?

12 Jul

re-posted from

by Sally Gaskill On July – 2 – 2012

Sally Gaskill


As it turns out, quite a bit.

Since 2008, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) has surveyed graduates of arts training programs—people who received undergraduate and/or graduate arts degrees from colleges and universities as well as diplomas from arts high schools…people who majored in architecture, arts education, creative writing, dance, design, film, fine arts, media arts, music, theater, and more.

To date, SNAAP has collected data from over 50,000 arts graduates of all ages and nationalities. These respondents, as we call them in the survey world, graduated from nearly 250 different educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

In a few short years, SNAAP has become what is believed to be the largest database ever assembled about the arts and arts education, as well as the most comprehensive alumni survey conducted in any field.

Recently, we published our latest findings: A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers. The report provides findings from over 33,000 arts graduates who responded to the online survey last fall.

Our report has attracted media coverage from the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Inside Higher Ed and—we were gawked on! My favorite may be Forbes, which compares getting an arts degree with getting a law degree—and recommends that prospective law students consider an arts career instead.

Here are some of the big questions that SNAAP data begin to answer.

1.      Where do arts graduates go?

  • First, they are largely employed. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents are unemployed and looking for work, as opposed to the national average of 8.9%.
  • 72% have worked as professional artist at some point in their career, and just over half (51%) do so currently.
  • Dance, music performance, and theater majors are the most likely to work as professional artists at some point in their careers (all at 82%). Design comes in at 81%. The lowest, not surprisingly, are arts administration (42%) and art history (30%) majors.
  • Between 10–20% of students in most arts disciplines never intended to become professional artists.

2.     What does a successful career look like? Is it all about income?

The more we learn about arts graduates, the more we confirm that there is little correlation between income satisfaction and overall job satisfaction. Sure, most of us in the arts would like to earn more, but the same can be said of doctors, lawyers, and shoe salesmen.

SNAAP data provide strong evidence that income is not the primary driver for job satisfaction for arts graduates.

  • Nine of ten (87%) arts graduates responding to the survey who are currently employed are satisfied with the job in which they spend the majority of their work time.
  • 82% are satisfied with their ability to be creative in their current job, whether working in the arts or in other fields.
  • 84% of employed respondents agree that their current primary job reflects their personalities, interests and values, whether their work is in the arts or other fields.

3.     How do outcomes differ for graduates from different arts disciplines?

One could write many blogs on this subject, so here are a few tidbits that have to do with earnings.

  • Dancers and choreographers earn the least but are most satisfied with their arts-related jobs: 97% of dancers and choreographers are satisfied with their incomes but only 9% earned more than $50,000.
  • Those graduating with a degree in architecture have the highest median income (at $55,000) while those majoring in art history, creative and other writing, dance, fine and studio art, theater, and “other” arts fields have the lowest ($35,000).
  • Sound and lighting engineers or technicians (79%) and K–12 arts educators (72%) are the most satisfied with their income while fine artists report the lowest rate of satisfaction (38%).

A view of part of the SNAAPShot interactive website.

These findings represent the tip of the iceberg. We ask arts alumni lots of questions about the skills they developed in school, how they use those skills in the workplace, and about their educational experiences. The vast majority would ‘do it again.’

Having said all that, we know that it’s essential to put our findings in context and dangerous to paint too rosy a picture. Of course, some arts graduates are employed in jobs that don’t adequately use their arts education, some suffer from heavy student debt, and some regret getting an arts degree. Many wish they had had a better education on the business of being an artist. But it’s still true that the majority are generally satisfied and happy with their life choices.

SNAAP’s primary purpose is to collect alumni data and report it back to each participating institution so they can assess and improve their curriculum, programs, and services. The deadline for institutions to participate in the 2012 survey is TODAY, July 2 (we can be somewhat flexible).

SNAAP is a big, collaborative project based at Indiana University and the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt. We are advised by a terrific National Advisory Board. Everything we have accomplished to date is thanks to generous funding from Surdna Foundation, Houston Endowment, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and others. Our first-rate team, including Steven Tepper and Danielle Lindemann, is currently busy writing a report on the cultural workforce funded by our most recent NEA grant. (Thank you, taxpayers.)

“Like” us on Facebook and you can be among the first to learn about our latest work.

Did you get an arts degree? How does your experience fit in with our findings? If you are interested in digging in to the data, read our 2012 annual report. Play with our interactive SnaapShot. Encourage your institution to participate, so that your story can be added to those of your fellow arts graduates.

Time for Change

11 Aug

This post is republished from HASTAC and was written by Dante Noto:

I have recently attended some exciting meetings related to arts education in California.  In preparation for these meetings, I’ve taken the opportunity to read through the University of California’s “a-g” requirements in Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).  For those of you unfamiliar with the a-g requirements, they are a series of courses required to be eligible for admission to UC and the California State University system.  “F” (ironically) is Visual and Performing Arts:  one year-long course in dance, drama/theatre, music or visual art. (A-E are history, English, math, lab science, and language; G is an elective.)

Being UC, of course, we have policies.

  • Visual Art:  Examples of acceptable courses (italics crucial–one must wear pince-nez) include painting, drawing, sculpture, art photography, printmaking, video/film production as an art form, contemporary media, ceramics, and art history.  Examples of unacceptable courses include craft courses, mechanical drafting, web page development, yearbook, and photography offered as photojournalism (i.e., as a component of yearbook or school newspaper publication).
  • Drama:  Acceptable courses include acting, directing, dramaturgy, theory…  Unacceptable courses include speech, debate, or courses that require students to perform occasional skits.

Also excluded are ballroom dancing and musical groups that perform for competitive field events.  (I don’t know which word is more ridiculous–competitive or field–but together they’re gorgeous.)  And heaven forbid that these policies are not clear enough, there are policy clarifications.

“Technology courses, visual and performing arts courses that utilize technology must focus primarily on arts content.  If the technology (i.e. software, equipment) is used as a tool of artistic expression, as a paintbrush would be used in a painting course, and all other component strands are adequately met, then such courses are acceptable.  If the technology/software is so complex that the primary concern becomes learning the technology, then the course will not be approved to meet the requirement.”

In the FAQs section, the question is asked, Why is it so difficult to get UC approval for arts courses that focus on design?  Answer:  “Often, design type courses (architectural, graphic, floral, interior, fashion, et cetera) focus more on the technical aspects of these disciplines, rather than the art.”

So today I stand up for the H-Z curriculum, those courses where you actually get to do something, possibly useful and even more possibly fun.  Remind me during my next recruitment for an open position whether I should hire the ace web page developer who was a champion debater in high school and possesses keen architectural design skills or the student who took dramaturgy and ceramics.  It’s time for a change.

Dante Noto serves as Director of Resource Development for Education Partnerships, a department of the University of California Office of the President responsible for programs that produce high quality teachers for California and that enhance the K-12 and community college transfer pipelines to bachelor’s degree and the workforce.

Political Equator – Press

7 Jun
The U.S./Mexico border photographed by Quilian Riano

Teddy Cruz of UCSD collaborated with Oscar Romo and Andrea Skorepa to organize Political Equator #3 last week. Here is a round-up of press received by the 2-day cross-border conference:

  • BLDG BLOG “Peripheral Porosity”
  • Washington Post “Art festival organizes unusual border crossing through a drain from San Diego to Tijuana”
  • Sign-On San Diego “Unusual border crossing is called performance art”

Check SOTA for a report-back from Liz Losh (UCSD) soon.

Curating People: A Round Up

10 May

Last week in Berkeley the Arts Research Center sponsored a symposium entitled Curating People. ARC director and UCIRA advisory board member Shannon Jackson diligently led up to and followed up the gathering with posts and guest-posts on her blog ARC Muses.

Posts appeared in this order:

  • Shannon Jackson on the ideas behind the symposium:
  • Erika Balsom (a Townsend post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Film & Media Studies at UC Berkeley)
  • Betti-Sue Hertz (Director of Visual Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco)
  • David Henry (Director of Programs, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston): 

“What type of institution is best suited to present the hybrid art forms of today? How does the economic structure of museums and the visual arts affect attitudes towards performed art which has a significantly different economic structure? How does the traditional mission of museums to preserve and collect impact its receptivity to non-object art? How do the differing histories and practices of performing arts and visual arts influence criticism of hybridized art forms in art museums?”

  • Susan Miller (currently Associate Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media and formerly Executive Director of New Langton Arts)
  • Constance Lewallen (Adjunct Curator at the Berkeley Art Museum)
  • Leigh Markopoulos (Chair, Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice, California College of the Arts)
  • Michele Rabkin (Associate Director of the Arts Research Center)
  • Kristan Kennedy (Visual Arts Curator at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art): 
“I often have difficult conversations with the community of artists and others that surround me about art and money, and art and meaning, and art and value, and art and community. I use words like “hybrid” and “discursive” and “dialogue” and “ practice” and “ intention”. I often talk about “de-historization” the “current moment” and “ collapsing forms”. I love to put the word “post” in front of everything. I like to think we are post- everything. Sometimes those words sounds right, and sometimes it sounds like the shifty language of the art world and therefore, flawed and contradictory and awful. The not so secret, secret is we are all still looking for the words to describe the now.”
  • Erin Boberg Doughton (Performing Arts Program Director at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art)
  • Lisa Wymore (Assistant Professor of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley and Co-Director of Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts)
  • Post-Show Reflection by Shannon Jackson where she addresses big issues discussed at Curating People, such as “How to un-silo communities of arts and culture?”; “Economies that support hybrid art work”; “More Writers and Writing Venues”; “Future Research”; and “Future Spaces for Reflection”

Arts Research at University of Michigan

3 May

“The Role of Art-Making and the Arts in a Research University” will be held May 4-6 in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan. Below are excerpts of an interview with Theresa Reid, the conference organizer, from “Montage” an online magazine at the University of Michigan. See the full interview here.


Montage: Why is that process important to the research university?

Reid: It’s important that universities serve the whole student.  We talk a great deal about diversity, because we know that diversity of all kinds enriches learning and life in many ways.  Integrating art-making into the university introduces a certain kind of rigorous cognitive diversity – it helps students learn to use their whole brains.  This is deeply rewarding and exciting on a personal level, of course.  But also, the world’s incredibly complicated problems need graduates who can use their full creative and cognitive endowment.

Montage: So, why the need for this symposium?

Reid: Art-making has not thrived in research universities, generally.  U-M is highly unusual in having mature, very highly regarded professional programs in Art & Design, Music, Theatre & Dance, and Architecture, as well as in creative writing and filmmaking. In addition to these professional programs, we have UMMA, UMS, and hundreds of voluntary student art groups.   In most research universities art-making is a very faint echo.

Montage: Why is art-making not thriving at most research universities?

Reid: One reason is revenue.  Art-making can be expensive, and doesn’t bring in revenue like, for instance, scientific or engineering research does.   It’s a sad fact, but somebody has to pay the bills.  Also, the value of the products of art-making might not be immediately evident, as it often is in science, math, and engineering: the value of the product of “art-making” is harder to quantify, especially in the short-term.

Montage: So why do art-making and the arts belong in the research university?

Reid: Because art-making is integral to the project of being human.  Human beings evolved making art, and every human culture produces art.  This essential part of who we are as a species cannot be left behind in the greatest engines of culture in the world:  U.S. research universities.  All research universities do support the humanities – that is, the study of the arts.  But the humanities, important as they are, are not enough.  The making and the doing of original creative work is categorically different:  it’s the hands-on creative work that provides the really deep cognitive diversity and opportunities for groundbreaking collaborations.

Shannon Jackson On Her New Book

22 Apr

Shannon Jackson (UCIRA Board Member, ARC Director, and UC Berkeley Professor of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies and Rhetoric), is interviewed in Art Practical by Christina Linden about her forthcoming book Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics  (Routledge, 2011) and the symposium “Curating People,” which she is coordinating for April 28 and April 29 at the Performance Art Institute and UC Berkeley. See her blog here.


CL: Do you think that the nature of the relationships to the state or other institutions is specific to the kind of experimental performance and social works we’re talking about here, or would you say this applies in a more blanket way to all artwork?

SJ: As to whether it applies to all artwork, I guess I would say that it does. Painting depends upon frames and canvases but also upon the gallery system. Theatre depends on stage managers and agents. But I do think that certain art forms are less able to deny that they need a supporting apparatus and that some have a vested interest in looking the other way. The works that I ended up selecting were all works that I think are posing questions about our relationship to interdependent systems, state based or otherwise. In some instances I’m really talking about places where a state-based mechanism did not come through. When Paul Chan began to work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, you could say that that is a situation where FEMA did not come through. It may be that the state did not come through because it had been defunded up until then, but Chan was pretty clear that there was a DIY quality to his work; the supporting systems were part of a very mixed economy that included private funding, community grants, philanthropic donations, and the gallery circuit, along with inadequate state funding.

CL: What about the way the institution of the museum is taking up these practices? Recently, the education departments are often the ones commissioning really interesting new work in this mode, and in some cases it operates as a kind of substitute for programming they used to produce more directly. Given the topic of the symposium you are organizing for April 29, I guess this must be on your mind?

SJ: You are alighting upon something that I hope we will talk about at the “Curating People” symposium in April. My hope is that we’ll have a continuous, wider Bay Area conversation about this. You spoke of the conference you attended at MoMA. Pablo Helguera, in the education department, organized that gathering. Why are education departments doing, as you call it, “substitute programming”? Education departments are interested in the experience of receivers. There can certainly be a didactic quality to that role. At the same time, artists who work in social practice and performance are also very concerned about engagement with receivers. If that it is your goal, it can be incredibly interesting to work with someone in education who thinks continuously about what it means to engage people, to address them, to challenge them. Supporting these new art forms begins to challenge the traditional divisions between the curatorial department and the education department.

I ended up deciding to focus on “curating,” specifically “curating people,” because the curators and the staff of the museums and theatre are in the trenches of all of this. We really get a complex picture of what it means to support interdisciplinary art when we think about the kind of work that curators, installers, and stage managers are doing daily. They’re living it every day and also re-skilling every day. A visual art curator might have been trained in a particular way, but then a certain kind of hybrid artist comes to town and needs you to secure a street permit or to do a casting call.

See the rest of the interview here

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