Looking Back on 2014

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien on campus, September, 2014
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien on campus, September, 2014

Happy New Year! We just wrapped 2014, which we are calling “Year 0” at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences because it has been our first year with regular programming, the launch of a full fundraising effort, and much more. Looking back, Year 0 was a wonderful success. I’m using this post to share some highlights from the past year and bring you up to date on where we stand with the building for the Institute, our programming, and of course our fundraising progress.

First, and most notably, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects of New York were selected from an international pool of 39 firms to design the Institute of the Arts and Sciences facility, working in partnership with TEF of San Francisco. Since beginning our work with them in June we’ve seen their competition concept scheme evolve from the initial renderings. As currently envisioned, IAS will sit on the proposed site overlooking Monterey Bay and the Great Meadow, allowing natural light and openness to permeate the galleries. It will be an elegant, yet functional, light-filled structure with 5,000 square feet of gallery space complemented by teaching and event spaces, art and object storage, residency studios, a café, conference rooms, and additional outdoor patios and public spaces. We completed the “pre-design” phase of architectural planning at the end of December. 

On the public programming front, in 2014 we hosted five Leonardo Art & Science Evening Rendezvous talks featuring a range of on- and off-campus speakers, drawing strong audiences throughout the year. We co-organized Mixing Methodologies, a provocative academic conference at UC Santa Barbara, and we supported the Anthropocene, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet conference here at UC Santa Cruz, organized by UC Santa Cruz Professor Anna Tsing, with Ursula Le Guin as a featured guest. We welcomed our first visiting artists, Harrell Fletcher, Molly Sherman, and Nolan Calisch of Public Doors and Windows from Portland, who are working on an artist-created, campus-wide tour and exhibition in 2016. We also supported the Sesnon Gallery’s Doc/Undoc exhibition, created by book artist Felicia Rice, and including MacArthur winning performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Most recently we hosted an evening of dialogue for the students and faculty involved in the premier of Birth of Stars, an interdisciplinary, multimedia theater production on campus. And, we are thrilled that you can now keep track of everything we did in 2014 on the elegant, well engineered and designed (in-house!) website we launched in April: ias.ucsc.edu. 

As we move into 2015 we are launching a second visiting residency, with acclaimed artist Russell Crotty.  In cooperation with the Lick Observatory and scientists from Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC), a research unit at UC Santa Cruz, the IAS is bringing Crotty to campus to meet with faculty, work with students, and most importantly, spend time peering through the telescopes and researching the archives at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton to inform the creation of a new body of work. Even better, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art has signed on to show Crotty’s new work in the fall of 2016, together with scientifically significant photographs, astronomical observation books, historical instruments from the Lick Observatory, and potentially some of the groundbreaking new cosmological simulations or other research outcomes from TASC scientists. It will be a genuinely unique collaboration featuring significant science from UC Santa Cruz and an artist with a great track record based in astronomy.  The show will be co-organized by the IAS in collaboration with Crotty, the ICA, and Tony Misch, the Lick Observatory’s archivist and director of collections. 

To help guide our future efforts on campus, we have launched an IAS Faculty Think Tank, which I co-chair with Jennifer Gonzalez, a long-time champion of the IAS project and a full professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture Program. We have recruited faculty from across the curriculum, in physical and biological sciences, social sciences, literature, history, engineering, and of course the arts, to insure that the Institute’s program evolves with input from a broad spectrum of disciplinary perspectives. 

Last but not least, fundraising. I am pleased to announce our first endowment for programming, the Alumni Fund for Visiting Artists at the IAS, initiated with an endowment gift by IAS Advisory Council Member Jock Reynolds, UCSC ’69, and Director of the Yale University Art Gallery. We have secured two significant donations for the capital project and continue on the fundraising trail with the full-throttle support of my colleague Katie Robinson, appointed Senior Director of Development for the IAS effort in September 2014. Our annual fund has also brought in a good group of new donors (including alumni, parents, and friends), which will support our programs and activities in 2015 and beyond. And if you want to make a start-of-the-year donation, just click here!

We made great strides in Year 0, and 2015 is off to a strong start. We are generating stimulating public events, presenting a program featuring renowned artists, scholars, and scientists, and offering our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community a glimpse of what will be possible once the Institute of the Arts and Sciences is built.  

John