Arts Initiative Introduces Faculty Showcase

We visit museums and galleries, attend film screenings, concerts, and theatre productions, but rarely does the UC Davis community get a chance to peek behind the scenes into the research, thought, and creative processes that our arts faculty put into these products. Two pioneering projects of the UC Davis Humanities Institute Arts Initiative aim to delve deeper into the work of the dynamic and productive arts departments on campus: the Arts Faculty Lecture Series and the Arts Initiative Story Corps.

Now in its second year, the Arts Initiative continues its mission of promoting and supporting the creative work of the six campus arts departments and programs. The lecture series invites faculty in the creative arts to showcase their work and explain their research and creative processes, while the story corps presents perspectives on arts events by graduate students in the arts.

“The faculty lecture series and the story corps are two examples of the ways that we are reaching out and highlighting the people, ideas and activities that make up the arts departments at UC Davis,” said Laurie San Martin, Associate Professor of Music and the faculty assistant for the Arts Initiative, which is hosted by the Humanities Institute with the support of the Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies. “The initiative hopes to shed light on some of the essential inner workings of our arts departments: Theater and Dance, Music, Art, Creative Writing, Cinema and Technocultural Studies, and Design.”

Billed as an Arts Faculty Showcase, the lecture series, beginning in March, invites some of the newest faculty in the arts to present their creative work. On March 8th, Bella Merlin of the Theatre & Dance Department will perform her latest practical investigations in a talk entitled “Practice as Research: Playing Up and Acting Out.” Come spring, Swedish composer Mika Pelo in the Music Department will discuss his approach to musical composition as “controlled dreaming” on May 4th, and photographer Youngsuk Suh of Art Studio on May 31st will address the inspiration for his new project “Let Burn: Landscape in the age of natural disasters,” a photo and video series on controlled fires.

Visitors to the Humanities Institute’s home page also will notice the appearance of more specialized stories on the arts at UC Davis. Written by a small cadre of arts graduate students, the stories offer an insider’s perspective on arts events and topics while getting the word out to the broader campus community about the remarkable things happening across the arts. For instance, Andrew Armas, a second-year MFA student in Studio Art, wrote last week about what he and other arts students gain from the Art Studio Lecture Series. Other upcoming stories include a feature by Josy Miller, a PhD candidate in Performance Studies, examining the trend in her field of “practice as research” and a profile of the immensely popular, and fabulously raucous, Samba School by Michael Accinno, a graduate student in Music.

Aside from promoting the arts across campus, the story corps offers arts students a chance to write for a broader audience and gain experience translating the work of the arts beyond their fields. San Martin also considers it a chance to mentor some very talented students in the arts. For further information about the story corps and a complete schedule of the lecture series, check out the Arts Initiative web page.

“We are continually looking to build bridges among various arts departments by facilitating conversations and pursuing multi-discipline grant support,” said San Martin. To that end, San Martin is spearheading the planning for an arts festival on the theme of migration that will coincide with a Music and Migrations festival scheduled for February 2012 in the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Look for a preview of the upcoming festival on the Arts Initiative web page this spring.