Tag Archives: UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Artist Jeremy Fisher and the UC Design/Build Studio: Envisioning an Ecological Field Station for the 21st Century project

8 Jan

Since 2007, the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) has developed experimental residency initiatives that offer opportunities for arts research to take place within the 36 sites of the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS). Primarily utilized for scientific investigation, these environments engage California’s diverse terrains, representing an untapped resource and opportunity for exploration by artists. Embedding artists within these field contexts offers new models that move beyond traditional methods of art and science, generating new forms of knowledge and practice through visual and material translation.

In 2010, UC Berkeley artist, Jeremy Fisher embarked on a project that did just that.  He was awarded a UCIRA Art+California Planning Grant for his project UC Design/Build Studio: Envisioning an Ecological Field Station for the 21st Century.  The Integrative Design Build Studio was proposed as an ongoing design/build studio for the UC NRS Blue Oak Ranch Reserve (BORR), organized by and for a team of interdisciplinary students from UC Berkeley.


Over the summer of 2010, a week-long meeting was organized at BORR, which included 12 students, professors Mark Anderson and Bob Shepherd of the Architecture Department, Brent Bucknum from the Climate Clock team, the BORR reserve director Michael Hamilton, and BORR staff. The aim of this meeting was to gather information that would enable the team to plan the design/build studio.  Collectively, the team decided to simultaneously work on both the Master Plan and a design/build project, and to band together with Architecture Professor Mark Anderson’s Seminar scheduled for Fall 2010. In order to facilitate a collaborative design process among students in Building Science, Landscape Architecture, Architecture, and the Information school, they formed the ideaBerkeley student group; IDEA is an acronym for Integrated Design Education in Action.


Just before fall 2010 ideaBerkeley held a meeting in the College of Environmental Design at which both Mark Anderson and Michael Hamilton spoke to a group of 35 students and discussed the possibilities for the coming Seminar. They recruited a small group of interdisciplinary students who met for the seminar three hours per week as a group and more often in smaller groups. Each student was charged with inviting a visiting speaker who had important skills and experience for our two objectives at BORR, the Meta Plan (aka master plan) and the design/build project. Speakers included Michael Hamilton, Climate Clock Team, Bob Glushko of the Information school, a representative from AutoDesk, and John Crowley of MIT’s Design/Build program. Using online tools such as a blog, website and wiki, we tracked our progress and project permutations as the seminar went on.
Two subsequent trips to BORR with the students, Professor Anderson, and the Climate Clock team were great additions to the depth and breadth of the overall integrated design process. The original goals of creating a Meta Plan as well as designing and building a project proved to be very challenging with the short timeline, small budget and variety of stakeholders, opinions and skills. After many design iterations and of both structures and infrastructure for BORR, The Meta Plan became a set of floor plans to renovate the existing barn to accommodate large groups, and a site analysis report from the landscape design students. The design/build project was decided to function as both a “Wired Wilderness” observation platform, as well as a usable camping platform for visitors to BORR.




For more information on this project, please visit: http://ucberkeleydesignbuild.blogspot.com/

For more photos of this project, please visit:  https://plus.google.com/photos/116227821447596280338/albums/5478281307755069489/5551425508751509362?banner=pwa



(majority of text taken from project final report)

Spotlight on UCIRA Artists Lisa Wymore and Amara Tabor-Smith: Sabar in the Studio

14 Feb

Ciré Beye. photo courtesy of CDG

In October, 2011, Berkeley and Oakland became part of greater Dakar. The occasion was the arrival of from Senegal of dancer Ciré Beye and master drummer Khadim Niang to conduct workshops in Sabar, the vigorous yet fluid dance form of the Wolof peoples of West Africa. For three weeks UC Berkeley’s Bancroft studio and Oakland’s Malonga Center for the Arts reverberated to the polyrhythmns of drums originally developed to communicate long distances in the dry regions at the edge of the Sahara, and to the cries of dance classes answering the drums.

For Lisa Wymore, assistant professor of dance at UC Berkeley, and for visiting faculty/resident artist Amara Tabor-Smith, the chance to expose their modern dance students to three weeks of “Sabar in the Studio” was not simply an exercise in learning new steps. Both teachers, Wymore says, felt “it would help students engage with dance as a world practice. Get them out of just imagining modern dance as a western phenomenon.”

Tabor-Smith, founder of Deep Waters Dance Theatre, had studied and danced with Beye in Senegal at L’École des Sables, an international center for traditional and contemporary African dance founded by choreographer Germaine Acogny. Beye, she knew, was not only a gifted teacher of traditional forms but an accomplished modern dancer, who performs internationally with Acogny’s Companie Jant-Bi. His “understanding of the body and his contemporary aesthetics,” Wymore said, made him a good fit for both their advanced and intermediate  classes.

Sabar—the word refers to the drumming and the dancing—is itself a citizen of two worlds. While a traditional accompaniment to weddings and funerals, it is also an urban phenomenon, flowering on the streets of Dakar in the wake of Senegal’s independence from France. Unlike traditional folk forms, Wymore says, Sabar “is always evolving and adapting. Like any dance—but particularly street forms of dance, it’s in flux—adopting and borrowing from other styles and developing new steps.”

It is also an exuberantly interactive effort with dancers and musicians trading rhythms and egging each other on to ever more insouciant displays of virtuosity. In the classes, the interactive or collaborative mode continued, Wymore says. “What was exciting—and Ciré kept saying this—he wanted to not be the teacher but the sharer of information, so the students could then take this form into their own practices”.

An important aspect of Sabar, Wymore says, is its involvement of the whole spine and pelvis in a kind of undulating movement—a stretch in more ways than one for those students who come out of a ballet background where the torso is held rigid—but important to developing the fluidity and versatility demanded by modern dance.

Another basic Sabar movement involves stepping from foot to foot. Wymore describes the resultant motion as “strong, earthy, and grounded.” The constant transferring of weight, she says, forces dancers to be aware of their own substance. Emotional engagement is required, too. “You have to bring your full self to it. It really requires that you not be embarrassed or holding back or shying away.” At the same time, she says, “Sabar is soft, older people do it. You don’t have to jump that high. It has this incredible gracefulness in the arms and this powerful pelvis. You can see how it was created by women.”

As a women’s dance from a patriarchal society, (the Muslim sub Sahara) Sabar also seems to carry a quietly confident assertiveness that blends well with political expression. It does so in the choreography of Acogny and Tabor-Smith. It did so again in early November. As part of the Occupy Cal/ Walkout at UCB over tuition increases, Sabar students and a class drummer left the studio to perform a kind of resistance dance as Wymore calls it on the Plaza. As their teachers had hoped, they were incorporating the form into their own practice. They were also showing—as Sabar vividly does—what mutual respect and dialog can look like.



Ariel Swartley

San Pedro, CA


Shannon Jackson: Art +

4 Oct

In the arithmetic of the arts, minus (-) is the sign of the times. It’s depressingly visible in the dwindling funding for arts institutions and the shrinking wallets of audiences. Shannon Jackson’s reading of the equation, however, reverses the terms. Director of UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center, Jackson looks at the ways artists, museums, landlords and communities are adding on value (and sometimes headaches) by joining forces or commingling formerly separate practices. No longer Rapunzels in their separate towers, the arts, she finds, are busy hailing passing boats and making common cause with their neighbors, both aesthetic and actual.

On October 10, two of Jackson’s current research initiatives will themselves be added together: Art + Time which explores the increasing hybridization of the visual and performing arts (with the resulting complications for curators turned casting directors and museum staffs turned stage hands) and Art + Neighborhoods, which examines the supports and stresses involved in the creation and sustenance of new urban arts districts. The resulting symposium, titled Time-Based Art and Neighborhood Ecologies, will focus on places in the Bay Area and in other parts of the country where boundaries between the art world and the so-called real world are being creatively and compassionately blurred.

The titles of Jackson’s initiatives may sound simple but her intentions are not: “Can we stay complicated about this?” she asked an interviewer.

Developers eyeing property, performers dreaming of venues, and  residents feeling the squeeze perceive the role of the arts in their communities differently. Yet, she says, they depend on the same kinds of support, and many of the same institutions. Her field is performance studies: With its interest in integrating disciplines and historic links to anthropology, it’s a good background for framing an exchange conducted in multiple tongues. Or gestures. “My hope,” she told Art Practical’s Cristina Linden, “is that by thinking about support as a complex system, as a social question but also as an aesthetic question, we can activate a different conversation.”

The conversation at Monday’s symposium will involve an array of artists who juggle the sometimes-seen-to-be mutually-exclusive terrains of social engagement and aesthetic innovation. Among them: the Cornerstone Theatre, initially formed to stage classic dramas with the residents of rural communities, but for the last 20 years creating theatre with the varied populations, neighborhoods and workplaces of Los Angeles; California College of Arts’ Allison Smith whose investigation of historic needle crafts and implements has resulted not only in ambivalently object-laden sculptures but has also prompted her to develop skill sharing communities among recovering veterans; Oakland poet-educator Marc Bamuthi Joseph, whose Life is Living urban festivals join music, spoken word and performance art with environmental action; and University of Chicago’s Theaster Gates, whose CV unites studies in urban planning, ceramics and Religious Studies and whose installations may combine Zen temples, downtown blocks, and gospel choirs.

The theme of addition is evident in the titles of the symposium’s panels: Expanding Audience/Expanded Theatre, Expanding Craft/ Expanded Objects, Expanding Environmentalism/Expanded Pedagogy.

But along with the excitement of pushing outward, Jackson sees new, fruitful limitations arising from practices that “not only celebrate freedom” but explore networks of obligation and responsibility.

The question which underlies the work of all the participants in Time-Based Art and Neighborhood Ecologies,  is two-fold : “How,” she asks, “do we make an ensemble? How does ensemble make us?” In talking about adding and subtracting, it seems, we are also talking about interdependence: a process akin to breathing in and breathing out.


written by Ariel Swartley

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”

Q & A: Catherine Cole on Future Planning for the UC

22 Apr

Q & A on Future Planning for the UC System: Interview with Catherine Cole

SOTA interviews long-time UCIRA friend and former Advisory Board member Catherine Cole  (Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley) about her latest research and call to action. Cole has been active with SAVE, a Berkeley faculty group, and has written occasionally on the Remaking the University blog and circulated a widely read Open Letter to Students trying to explain the budget-cuts early on in the summer of 2009. Cole teaches African Performance, Field Methods, Postcolonial Studies, and Disability Studies. She is the author of Performing South Africas Truth Commission: Stages of Transition (2010) as well as Ghanas Concert Party Theatre (2001), which received a 2002 Honorable Mention for The Barnard Hewitt Award from the American Society for Theatre Research and was a finalist for the Herskovits Prize in African Studies.

 Q: In your recent paper Trading Futures: Prospects for Californias University you describe a situation in which the UC administration is “in reaction mode. It is reacting to a very, very bad situation—namely the dramatic state de-funding of public education. And then the opposition such as protesters and activists have been preoccupied with reacting to the administration’s reactions.”[i] And you go on to say that, “We are all so myopically preoccupied with the current crises that we can’t seem to see or imagine a larger picture, much less a better one. We are not planning in the UC. We’re not planning across the three segments of higher education. Sure, we’re pushing around numbers about expected enrolments, access, and revenue streams. But we are not imagining or dreaming about a wide range of prospective futures. We are only coping.”[ii] Can you describe what coping looks like as opposed to vision? What happens when we just cope?

A:  Coping means that a great deal of the institution’s energy is preoccupied with addressing immediate budgetary shortfalls. We know that our current budget problems are profound, but we don’t yet know their magnitude. As with so many sectors of California, the UC must wait until the state legislature makes budget decisions. In the meantime, “coping” is characterized by tremendous uncertainty, a great deal of anxiety, and an intense focus on the short-term. This way of navigating the future is, by definition, short sighted.

Q: Later in your “Trading Futures” essay you pose a question: “The UC has some of the best, brightest and most innovative faculty in the world. What would it mean for its faculty…to be at the center of devising a new future for higher education?” You have a proposal for what this might look like, can you describe that gathering and the traditions of faculty gatherings and community-centered design it will draw from.

A: In 1963 Clark Kerr described the University of California as a “multiversity,” an institution that is “so many things to so many different people that it must, of necessity, be partially at war with itself.”[iii] Kerr noted that while all communities should have a soul or a single animating principle, “the multiversity has several—some of them quite good, although there is much debate on which souls really deserve salvation.”[iv] At this moment when the entire UC system is plagued by long-term public defunding and short-term deficits, there is much soul searching about the sustainability and viability of the multiversity. While scenarios for disaggregation of the UC have episodically surfaced in the past, never before has this happened in the context of such extreme fiscal volatility and constraint.

In June 2009 UCSD professors created a firestorm of controversy by suggesting that some UC campuses be “downgraded” from research to teaching institutions. In September 2010, the UCLA Anderson School of Management proposed ending entirely their reliance on state funding. Recently UCB has touted a federal funding model, embracing an adaptive rather than deliberate scenario that would ultimately raise the question of how Berkeley would be a university “of” California in the future. In February 2011, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a peer flagship public university, began openly discussing its possible secession from the state system.[v]

Many radical scenarios for the future of California’s world-renowned university are being discussed, but often privately. These scenarios would have profound implications for California given the UC’s critical role in the state. There is a surfeit of big, conceptual questions facing the UC, yet there is also a deficit of formats in which such questions can be discussed openly, critically, and with intellectual rigor. The UC’s future, whatever it is, will be brighter if envisioned with widespread and energetic faculty participation in strategic planning. The UC once had a format for visionary faculty deliberation: all-UC Faculty conferences held annually for thirty years beginning in 1944.[vi] These annual events, sponsored by the Academic Senate, brought together faculty from throughout the system along with senior administrators to discuss topics of long-range institutional significance. The sole purpose of the conference, according to President Sproul, was “to stimulate thinking on all campuses of the University about major problems of the University as a whole, and to afford an opportunity for free, frank, and thorough discussion of those problems by a large number of interested members of the faculty.”[vii]

The project I am proposing aims to catalyze and revive such system-wide faculty conversations, and to do so by using a new format. Unlike earlier all-UC faculty conferences, our pilot project will be convened outside of any formal decision-making authority. We are operating on the premise that all senate faculty have a vested interest in and responsibility for making our university’s future, and that there is an urgent need for open, deliberative, collaborative, rational, imaginative, and time-efficient formats for engaging faculty in long-range thinking.

Neither a “conference” nor a “meeting” or “retreat” (the familiar formats in which faculty generally gather), our endeavor represents an experiment in process, one that uses planning techniques that are iterative, dynamic, participatory, and collaborative. While such models for planning are common in urban design,[viii] in business,[ix] as well as in public policy and non-profit organizations,[x] planning processes within higher education tend to be anachronistic and slow, dominated by linear and mechanistic thinking and lacking the agility that is needed in today’s dynamic climate.[xi] Participatory planning represents a “bottom up” approach which contrasts with the traditional “top down” model of the centrally designed master plan. “Charrettes” in particular are of interest to us, for they represent a time-compressed model of focused collaboration.

Figure 1: UCLA environmental and urban design studies group working at table. University of California, Los Angeles. November 1966. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

I am working on this project in collaboration with Ann Bermingham, the Acting Director of UCSB’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center. Called “The Uses of the University in 2050,” it consists of two events aimed at setting horizons of planning to the year 2050. The first will be held in February 2012 at UCSB and will focus on the multiversity. The second, held in fall 2012 at UCB, will look at the State and how its needs for higher education are likely to change in the next forty years.

At UCSB, we will ask: What are the virtues, strengths, and problems of the multiversity? Can the multi-campus system be sustained in the face of receding state and federal support? Would UC still be a “public good” if the multi-campus system were abandoned? Should UC campuses specialize? How are the disciplinary structures changing? What are the benefits and problems of housing Colleges of Letters and Science together with professional schools? In short, if we were able to design from scratch a UC-system for the year 2050, what would it look like?

A second charrette in Fall 2012 will be held at UC Berkeley and will be more external in focus and more broadly participatory. It will be aimed at: 1) setting horizons of planning to the year 2050 and thinking of California’s needs for the future, especially as these relate to the university’s past mandate and present aspirations, 2) getting faculty as well as administrators, staff, and students to think in a visionary and collaborative way about an issue of long range significance, 3) extending the impact of our project through greater public input and exposure, in particular using interactive digital technologies and an art exhibit from the highly significant yet largely unknown Ansel Adams Fiat Lux collection of over 1700 images of the UC taken the 1960s, and 4) providing us an opportunity to refine and scale up our participatory process, making modifications based upon what we learned earlier at Santa Barbara.

Figure 2: Graduate geology class with UCR professors Gordon P. Eaton and Frank W. Dickson at Joshua Tree National Monument. The towering rock forms are actually the granite roots of an ancient mountain range. University of California, Riverside. December 1966. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

The overall goals for the “Uses of the University in 2050” project are: 1) to create a new faculty collaborative format in which scenarios for the UC’s future are openly articulated, debated and critically engaged using the University’s multi-disciplinary research strengths; 2) to cultivate and inspire among faculty fresh strategic thinking about our institution; 3) to foster a conversation about the future among all UC stakeholders that is driven by long-term vision rather than short-term crises and guided by participatory processes; and 4) to harness the power of the university’s best asset–faculty research expertise—to address the real world problem of our University’s future. We will use the university itself to help frame and address the university’s present and future challenges, and use the insights and experiences of our non-UC community and policymaking partners to help envision how the UC should adapt, change and grow in the face of dynamic and volatile circumstances.

Figure 3: Berkeley Nobel Laureate and Professor of Chemistry Melvin Calvin and his group working in their laboratory. Calvin, the scientist who “unlocked the secrets of photosynthesis,” held a deep belief in interdisciplinary collaborations. He and his team worked in a “laboratory without walls.” Opening in 1963, the building now known as the Melvin Calvin Laboratory was designed with a doughnut-shaped exterior and an open interior with radial lab benches so as to foster cooperative teamwork. University of California, Berkeley. September, 1966. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

“The major test of the modern American university,” advised Clark Kerr, “is how wisely and how quickly it adjusts to the important new possibilities. The great universities of the future will be those which have adjusted rapidly and effectively.”[xii] As much as the university is a source of knowledge production, it can also benefit from outside expertise, particularly from sectors of California’s economy that have long had to be agile in order to survive. Universities are old institutions that are stereotypically recalcitrant to change. Yet we are at a historical juncture when the University needs to devise organizational processes for shared governance that are agile, lean and horizontal in addition to the slow, linear, and hierarchical organizational processes that have long been characteristic of the University and have served us well in establishing the UC’s unparalleled reputation.

Figure 4: In this image taken by Adams at UC Berkeley in 1966, we see the artist peering at us, the people of UC’s future. The Fiat Lux project was commissioned by UC President Clark Kerr to emphasize the prospective view for the University and to “present a sense of the opportunities which lie ahead.” Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

Q: What is a vision for the future of the UC system?

 A: The system doesn’t have a vision for the future right now.  The Commission on the Future was supposed to produce that, but I think there is unanimous disappointment in its findings. The Commission’s final report doesn’t add up to a vision. A vision should be something that will inspire the State to invest in us.

The Commission on the Future’s final report ventures the courageous assertion, “The future cannot be avoided.”[xiii] Standing on a mountain of a year’s worth of planning and fraught subcommittee work, the Commission advises that in the coming years, “The challenge will be to strike an unerring balance between what to recalibrate or even discard, and what to protect. The goal must be for the University to emerge on the other side of the crises fit and ready to serve California as well and as far into the future as it has in the past.”[xiv] “Fit and ready to serve”? “Recalibrate,” “discard” and “protect”? This is a language of contraction and retrenchment. This is not the language of innovation. Yet historically California and especially the University of California have been defined by a capacity to innovate. What happened to innovation, that defining feature of the University of California’s “brand” identity?

If our vision for the future has become so impoverished that we only aspire to be “fit and ready to serve,” why should the electorate invest in us? If this is our highest goal, then of course higher education will be, in the words of UC President Yudof, “crowded out by other priorities,” especially when priorities like care of the sick, disabled, elderly, foster children, etc. are so much more compelling as necessities.[xv] Furthermore we must consider that getting an undergraduate education may no longer be a sustainable aspiration for many in America, given the escalating debt students must take on to get their degrees. With a rapidly shrinking middle class and skyrocketing tuition, many college graduates find that unlike in the 1960s when a college education was a passport to the middle class, today’s degree gains them admission to an endless cycle of debt and poverty.[xvi]

Our California leadership in higher education is not really grappling with this larger picture. “The reality is that California has essentially stopped innovating in the development of its higher education system,” according to scholar of higher education John Aubrey Douglass.[xvii]

Figure 5: A beginning sculpture class at UCSB works at evolving forms inspired by natural objects such as shells and thistles. University of California, Santa Barbara. April 1966. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

Q: How do the arts figure into future planning processes? Are there ways of seeing/being or artistic strategies that can become relevant in the kind of visioning you are describing?

A: The arts have a crucial role because artists are accustomed to thinking outside the box. And that’s the kind of thinking we need right now. Artists are also visionaries, able to see and imagine scenarios for the future that can operate on multiple levels, addressing both pragmatic constraints and larger, idealistic and intellectual aspirations. In many fields, the arts are collaborative–this is certainly true in my field of theatre and performance studies. A new future for the university may well require the collaborative creativity of the university’s best asset: faculty and their collective (and individual) ingenuity and intelligence. This may mean bringing together our brilliant faculty from multiple disciplines–economics and political science, physics and medicine, environmental design and business, photography and music–to actually collaborate in making the UC of the future. Faculty ingenuity is an underutilized resource: the UC often hires outside consultants to advise on organizational challenges when our own faculty could provide far superior advice Afterall, we have many faculty who advise that other President, the one in Washington!.

The UC’s organizational processes for faculty consultation tend to be linear and slow. There are well-known methods of visioning the future in ways that are time compressed and tend to produce creative innovation, as well as broad-based community participation (charrettes, scenario planning, “world cafe”, etc.). These methods often have roots in or connections to the arts. Charrettes are a perfect example of this, for the term actually arose from competitions within French art schools. Only later did charrettes become something that was client-driven within the fields of architecture and urban design consulting.

Finally the arts are important because in our field we don’t let lack of resources limit our vision. Rather artists often create a vision, and then seek resources. It’s a different way of working than is typical for the university. But I feel that the UC has let our budgetary crisis diminish our vision and expectations for the future. That can be quite a self-defeating, a way to ensure that the present crisis becomes the “new normal,” and that the new normal is neither excellent nor inspiring.

Another discovery I’ve made in the process of working on this project is the value of the history of artists who have come through the UC system. Ansel Adams is a case in point. Very, very few people–even long time UC career staff and faculty–know that the UC Regents own a vast repository of photographs taken by Ansel Adams in the 1960s of the University of California. This project, called “Fiat Lux,” was commissioned by Clark Kerr. He hired Adams and writer Nancy Newhall to document for three years all our UC activities on the (then) nine campuses as well as agricultural extensions, observatories, and all kinds of UC endeavors throughout the state. After Yosemite, the University of California may be the most documented subject in Adams’ oeuvre. The UC owns these images: over 6000 images in total, 1700 of which are scanned (available at the California Museum of Photography at UCR) and 605 signed prints (held at Berkeley’s Bancroft library). This archive is a rich repository of images providing a coherent and compelling picture of the University of California and its relationship to the State of California. Because Fiat Lux, which was commissioned by Clark Kerr in 1963, came to fruition in 1967 just as Kerr’s own administrative star was falling (fired by Ronald Reagan, etc.), the images have never really gotten the attention they deserve. A wonderful exhibition was mounted by Melinda Wortz at UCI in 1991, and that exhibit toured to five other UC campuses (Berkeley was not one of these). There have been some smaller exhibitions of the images on individual campuses (Riverside and San Diego). And the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) did an exhibit on Ansel Adams in 2001–though this included images of Yosemite etc, so the BAM exhibit was more about the artist than the university.

Figure 6: UCSF Professor Marilyn G. Farguhar with path and electron microscope. University of California, San Francisco. April 1965. Photograph by Ansel Adams, Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

Figure 7: Self portrait of Ansel Adams with path and electron microscope. University of California, San Francisco. April 1965. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Sweeney/Rubin Ansel Adams Fiat Lux Collection.

In sum, these images just have not been properly seen–and now at this moment of crises and soul searching for the University of California, these images could provide a dynamic and compelling opportunity to reflect on who we were 50 years ago and to generate prospective visions about who and what UC wishes to be in the future. Adams can help us envision a longer horizon. These photos are “memories of the future,” which is a term often used in scenario planning. These images can also be an opportunity not just for internal discussions about our future, but also more importantly for external communications, visioning, and “branding” of the UC with the people of the State of California.

One hears these days various scenarios for the dissolution of the UC system. Such ideas have episodically surfaced in the past, but never in the context of such an extreme fiscal crises. And of course, UW-Madison is now leading the way in a break-apart scenario for public higher education. If the UC is considering a divorce, Fiat Lux is our family photo album. Let’s open it up. Let’s remind ourselves who the family is, and what we’ve done together.

Morale is so very, very low right now, I feel we have all succumbed to a pernicious “Gloom and Doom.: If we get stuck at that place, we’ll never be able to have a brighter future, because we won’t be able to imagine one. It’s interesting to think about commissioning new work from UC faculty and student artists that uses Fiat Lux as a frame. How do they “see” UC today in relationship to how Ansel Adams saw us then?  I think we in the arts can play a special role here in helping people to imagine a viable, attractive, and–most important of all–an inspiring future for the University of California. The dedication to the Fiat Lux UC centennial book by Adams and Newhall published in 1967 says the project is “dedicated to those who will make the future.”[xviii] That’s us!

[SOTA thanks the UCR California Museum of Photography for permission to use these images)

[i] Catherine M. Cole, “Trading Futures: Prospects for California’s University,” talk presented at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UCSB, 17 February 2011, http://www.ihc.ucsb.edu/catherine-cole/ (accessed 11 April 2011), p. 2.

[ii] Ibid, pp. 2-3.

[iii] Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University, Fifth Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001; originally published 1963), p. 17.

[iv] Ibid, p. 15.

[v] See Andrew Scull, et al., Open letter by 21 UCSD department heads, 15 June 2009, posted http://toodumbtolivearchive.blogspot.com/2009/07/june-15-2009-dear-i-write-on-behalf-of.html (accessed 11 April 2011); Louis Freedberg, “Chancellor: UC Berkeley Morphing into a Federal University,” California Watch, 23 February 2011, http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/chancellor-uc-berkeley-morphing-federal-university-8816 (accessed 11 April 2011); Jack Stripling, “U of Wisconsin at Madison’s Chancellor Defends Proposed Separation From System,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 25 February 2011, available online at http://chronicle.com/article/U-of-Wisconsin-at-Madisons/126532/ (accessed 11 April 2011).

[vi] Cole, “Trading Futures,” pp. 12-13.

[vii] Robert Gordon Sproul, “Opening Remarks,” Proceedings of the First All-University Faculty Conference, University of California, 1944, p. 5.

[viii]  National Charrette Institute (NCI) together with Bill Lennertz and Aarin Lutzenhiser, The Charrette Handbook: The Essential Guide for Accelerated, Collaborative Community Planning (Chicago: American Planning Association, 2006); Urban Design Associates (UDA)–Ray Gindroz, Donald Carter, Paul Ostergaard, Rob Robinson, and Barry J. Long, Jr., The Urban Design Handbook: Techniques and Working Methods (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

[ix] James A. Ogilvy, Creating Better Futures: Scenario Planning as a Tool for a Better Tomorrow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World (New York: Doubleday, 1991); Kees Van der Heijen, Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996).

[x] Judith E Innes and David E. Booher, Planning with Complexity: An Introduction to Collaborative Rationality for Public Policy (New York: Routledge, 2010); John M. Bryson, Strategic Planning For Public and Nonprofit Organizations, 3rd Edition: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2004).

[xi] Shannon Chance, “Strategic by Design: Iterative Approaches to Educational Planning,” Planning for Higher Education 38.2 (2010): 40–54.

[xii] Kerr, Uses, p. 81.

[xiii] University of California Commission on the Future, Final Report, November 2010, p. 2. Report is online athttp://ucfuture.universityofcalifornia.edu/, accessed 24 February 2011.

[xiv] Ibid, p. 2.

[xv] Quoted in Deborah Solomon, “Big Man on Campus: Questions for Mark Yudof,” New York Times, 24 September 2009, published online athttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27fobq4-t.html.

[xvi] See Anya Kamenetz, Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young” (New York: New York: Riverhead Books/Penguin, 2006).

[xvii] John Aubrey Douglass, “Re-Imagining California Higher Education,” Center for the Studies of Higher Education, Research & Occasional Paper Series, 14.10 (October 2010), p. 2.

[xviii] Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, Fiat Lux: The University of California (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 5.

Reflections on UCIRA Conferences 2005-2010

19 Jan

Reflections on UCIRA Conferences 2004-2010 from Dr. Holly E. Unruh (Associate Director of UC Institute for Research in the Arts)

November 2010 marked the 4th time UCIRA held its ‘State of the Arts’ conference – an event designed to bring together artists, scholars and arts administrators from across the system and beyond. Over the course of the three days we spent at UC San Diego considering the theme Future Tense: Alternative Arts and Economies in the University, I was asked several times about the history of the ‘State of the Arts’ conferences – what differentiated each one, what sorts of discussions were generated by the different themes; how did they vary from campus to campus? But perhaps most importantly I was provoked to think about the question of what it really means to ‘do’ a system/statewide ‘arts’ conference. When we launched ‘State of the Arts’ in 2005, the stakes – for faculty and for students, for arts education, for public education in general – were much different. The idea of a conference which was more like a festival (an un-conference), celebrating and linking the arts across UC and thus across the state, was an exciting prospect to consider. As we enter the very different climate of 2011 the question looms: where to spend our efforts and our dwindling funds? What can we best accomplish with our resources and how? Should ‘State of the Arts’ continue?

Still Building workshop and installation on California student movements at UCIRA Conference (UCSD in November, 2010)

‘State of the Arts’ has now been held on the UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC San Diego campuses. One thing that has remained a constant from year to year, venue to venue, has been the urging on our part that the host campus try to include a few proven elements: a multiplicity of voices (disciplinary, generational, etc.); an emphasis on the presentation of work over ideas (doing over discourse, in our internal parlance); and that they use the conference as an opportunity to showcase the work happening on their own campus. Our hope is that by using ‘State of the Arts’ as a showcase platform they will hit upon an atmosphere that will make it more like an arts festival than academic conference. This happens when artists on the campus open up studios, labs, work spaces and even classrooms. When we get past the polished critical analysis of work already completed, it becomes clear how much of what we do in the arts in the University environment is not only grounded in solid research and theoretically sophisticated (as a traditional panel presentation will surely aim to stress) but also lively and improvisational, action-based, and focused on the testing of forms, collaborative configurations and ideas – all values UCIRA as an institution highly prizes.

Deans Panel at UCIRA's Future Tense Conference (at UCSD November, 2010)

Another thread connecting each conference has been the invitation for UC administrators to come, witness, and hopefully respond to, the work in question. Since our second conference in 2007, we have been joined each year by a panel of arts Deans from across UC. By the third time they came to ‘State of the Arts’ in 2010, the Deans were (we like to think) comfortable enough with the work we were doing  to not only speak freely about what they saw as the challenges facing UC’s arts departments in the current fiscal crisis, but also to form a working committee that hopes to engage in very concrete ways with addressing some of these issues.

Different campuses have configured the conference in different ways: In year 1 (2005) at UCSB we did not have an overarching theme, although as the board sat down to curate the panels it became clear that we were all (latently) aware of some major strengths in arts research spanning the system – strengths that seemed to need articulation, connection and discussion. Over the two days of this initial conference we witnessed a variety of projects undertaken by UC artists which exemplified what we as an institution were then calling ‘Action Research’ – work which took what could easily have been purely academic questions out into the real world for testing, involved students as co-learners in the endeavor and co-producers of the knowledge, and which more often that not was as deeply collaborative in nature as it was spatially embedded in particular situations or issues. We also found that numerous individuals shared an interest in questions of habitation, design and architecture and the linked issue of sustainability – conceived both in economic, environmental and also in social terms. Finally, a strong theme to many of the presentations was the cross-cutting work being done to link art, science and technology throughout the UC system. A major project we highlighted that year was Marko Peljhan’s (Art./MAT, UCSB – and now our UCIRA co-Director) Makrolab.

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Q & A: Rabkin (UCB) and Haas (UCLA) on Resources

14 Sep
Q&A is an irregular series on SOTA which will pose a question to a small group of faculty, staff or students from different campuses and compile their responses. If you would like to respond to the question, please do so in the comments section of this post or email ucirasota@gmail.com.
Q: How are you going to share resources this academic year? Does sharing resources signify a submission to the budget cuts or is it necessary restructuring? How can sharing resources model a better university based on principals of cooperation over competition?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Michele Rabkin (Associate Director, Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley) – The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley has a history of collaboration. Even before the most drastic budget cuts, our funds were always smaller than our ambitions, so we sought to leverage them for greatest effect. This meant joining with others on campus to co-sponsor projects that no one department could pull off alone (frequently artists’ residencies that were interdisciplinary in scope). Now, with our programmatic funds edging perilously close to zero, sharing of resources is key to our survival. This takes two forms. In one, we seek to partner with other units on campus, such as the Townsend Center for Humanities, on projects of mutual interest. They may be able to contribute funds or other types of support (such as the Townsend Lab, a tool for online collaboration). In the other, we provide staff support to arts-related projects initiated by the Dean (such as the new Berkeley Arts Seminars for freshmen) in exchange for additional financial support. While we have to be careful to maintain a balance between the core priorities of ARC and those of our collaborators, both these kinds of partnerships are effective and we will continue to pursue them whether or not the budget situation improves.

A: Gilda Haas (Urban Planning Dept. UCLA and editor of Dr. Pop) – I started this program called Community Scholars in 1991, which has since been led by others. This year and last, what I’m teaching at UCLA has had at its core the idea of sharing resources.  A primary goal is to turn university resources out towards the community, by making a space for community and labor leaders, and as of lately also artists, to work with our graduate students on an applied research project for six months, and then, reciprocally, for us all to benefit from their knowledge and experience.  For almost 20 years, the program has been a collaborative effort between the urban planning department and the UCLA Labor Center.  It has rarely had line funding.  It has succeeded thus far due to a strong commitment to the idea and a sense of accountability to a constituency.  In the world of the work that I do, which is community development, popular education, and organizing for social change, there are always budget cuts.  There are always anti-union efforts to defund the labor center.  Our collaboration is necessary for survival, but more importantly, it is necessary for inspiration, creativity, breaking through silos, and expanding our networks.

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