About the Institute

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz is founded on a visionary premise: to harness the combined power of the arts and sciences to explore the critical issues of our time, and share those insights with the public. The Institute’s galleries, learning spaces, and events facilities will invite collaboration and learning in all their forms.

UC Santa Cruz is at the forefront in many fields, including genomics, sustainable food systems, astrophysics, digital arts, and social justice. Now it is time to present our knowledge, research, and vision to a broader audience. Interactive exhibitions, artist and scientist residency programs, collaborative research, and student-led projects provide rich material for visitors to encounter the creative expression and real-world solutions the university offers.

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences is already offering programming that brings to life that interplay, presenting public programs, collaborating with faculty and students, and planning exhibitions to be presented in existing locations on and off campus.

To create a permanent home, award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are designing an inviting, environmentally responsive, and sustainable structure nested among oaks with a view from the redwoods to the sea. It will serve as a public destination and campus-wide hub, drawing together the people and ideas that make UC Santa Cruz unique.


The Institute challenges perceptions of the arts and sciences and their relationship to the world. 

A vibrant center for collaboration across disciplines

Bringing thinkers together across disciplines is one of UC Santa Cruz’s core strengths. Some of our greatest discoveries and transformative thinking takes place at the boundaries of disciplines. The Institute’s visiting scholars and artists work on individual projects or collaborate with others on topics such as climate change and global warming, new economies, international immigration, and ocean health. Our faculty and students learn from and share with visitors from across California, the nation, and the world—who in turn take new ideas back to their own institutions.

Mind-expanding, idea-provoking exhibitions

In our programs and exhibitions, visitors encounter the vital questions that faculty and students grapple with in studios, laboratories, classrooms, and scholarship. What is the nature of the cosmos, and what forces shaped it? How will the science and politics of water impact the world’s oceans, land, and inhabitants in coming decades? To engage such questions, the Institute draws on the expertise of our university community, partnerships with museums, educational institutions, and collections—including the University of California collection of more than 4 million objects of art, science, and cultural history. This offers unique opportunities for innovative and engaging exhibitions that ask us to test the limits of our perception, to reconsider our assumptions, and to explore new aesthetic realms.

A space that inspires creativity and learning

The concept for the building to house the Institute embraces the ethos of the university, including sustainable design principles, respect for the land, functionality, and transparency. Tod Williams and BillieTsien are the American Institute of Architects Firm of the Year for 2013, and received the National Medal of Arts at the White House in 2014. Collaborating on this project is TEF of San Francisco. The concept for the Institute’s permanent home includes galleries, seminar and lecture rooms, residency studios, public gathering spaces, and a rooftop cafe. It offers stunning views of Monterey Bay and the Great Meadow, and welcomes pedestrian flow across a new bridge that creates a vital link between East and West campus.

Educate and launch future generations

UC Santa Cruz students represent California’s future: more than 30 percent are first-generation college students, and more than 50 percent are from diverse backgrounds. The Institute embraces their learning experiences through faculty-initiated curriculum projects, institute exhibitions, and events—and by including students in nearly all areas of the institute’s activities. Students gain valuable pre-professional experience as graduate and undergraduate interns, as fellows, and as work-study students who assist with curatorial projects, education programs, public events, public relations, and outreach.


 “With so many critical issues facing the world today, the time is right to build an institute where bright minds can come together to explore those issues and share their findings with the public. That is why my husband, Rowland, and I are happy to contribute to the founding of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.”

Patricia Rebele (Porter ’88) Philanthropist, UC Santa Cruz Foundation Emeritus Trustee

“I have reaped great benefits from collaborations forged across disciplinary lines. I am yearning to draw again and again from this source of inspiration, and I believe that the Institute of the Arts and Sciences will make this a reality, not just for me, but for the entire university community.”

Gregory Laughlin, Professor and chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics

“I came to UC Santa Cruz because I had heard that it was a campus that promoted collaboration between the arts and sciences. I stayed because it turned out to be true.”

Keith Muscutt, Institute of the Arts and Sciences National Advisory Council and former Assistant Dean of the Arts

“While many universities have fine arts museums, and many universities have specialized research centers, the Institute of the Arts and Sciences will serve as the first intellectual, university-level “exploratorium” for other scholars and the public.”

Jennifer A. González, Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture

“I wish UC Santa Cruz had had this Institute 30 years ago. As a young astrophysicist trying to understand the structure of the universe, I could have used the help of artists—creative, intuitive, three-dimensional thinkers.”

George Blumenthal, Chancellor, UC Santa Cruz