Happy 2016!

Happy New Year from UC Santa Cruz! 2015 was a whirlwind of activity at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences. As we work frantically to complete our first big exhibition project, I’m pausing now to share what we accomplished in 2015 and highlight some of the exciting things coming up in 2016.

The past year we conducted two significant artist residencies at the IAS. The first, launched in 2014, brought the art collective Public Doors and Windows for repeated visits. PDW, as we call them, includes Portland-based, internationally active artists Harrell Fletcher (a graduate of UC Santa Cruz’s Farm Apprenticeship!), Nolan Calisch and Molly Sherman. Their Collective Museum project frames the entire campus as the world’s largest “museum,” complete with 50 historically, culturally, and aesthetically meaningful sites across campus, as identified by faculty, staff, alumni, and students. Visitors will tour the Collective Museum using a mobile GPS-based website, with audio and text narratives and background photos about each site. At each site there will also be handsome analog signage and five additional “gallery walls” will be in major buildings around campus. It's an unprecedented experiential installation offering a unique look at UC Santa Cruz. There’s an exhibition at the Porter College Sesnon Gallery, with an opening celebration on February 11, 2016, and an eight-hour walk of (nearly) all the sites on the following day. This is a huge project, and I’m really excited about it. 

Our second artist residency with Russell Crotty was launched in early 2015. Russell is a world-renowned artist and amateur astronomer—in fact he received Guggenheim Fellowship last year. He also did a site visits at Lick Observatory, spoke to a number of classes, and consulted with UC Santa Cruz astronomers and astrophysicists about their work. Russell is now back in his Ventura studio working on a new series of astronomy-based art works for our exhibition at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, November 2016 – February 2017. Russell has also been collaborating with me and Tony Misch, Director of the Lick Observatory Collections, and the show will include a range of fascinating and beautiful archival objects from Lick Observatory, including 19th century log books, photos, and astronomy artifacts. The IAS and the ICA received a prestigious Andy Warhol Foundation grant for this project, a great honor as well as a nice check!

In addition to these residencies, the Institute has continued to host its LASER talks (Leonardo Art & Science Evening Rendezvous), featuring superb faculty and off-campus speakers and drawing strong audiences. The series continues in 2016, and our next LASER is coming up Feb. 2, with another great lineup listed here!

Last year, we also partnered with the Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Program, the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, and the Film & Digital Media Department on a program called the Making of the Birth of Stars, a play about the origins of the universe and overcoming the challenges of bullying. We hosted MacArthur Fellow Amalia Mesa-Bains, speaking about her work as a groundbreaking Chicana installation artist and activist, and previewed the new documentary Eduardo Carrillo: A Life of Engagement, in which Amalia appears prominently. Carrillo was a founding faculty member of Oakes College, a beloved Professor of Art, and a painter and muralist deeply engaged in the Chicano movement.

Looking forward, I’m delighted to report that we’ve just confirmed another exhibition initiative for the 2016-17 academic year, with LA-based sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring. They’ll bring their world renowned Crochet Coral Reef here to engage Santa Cruz communities on and off-campus in the marine science of the coral reefs, the feminist craft of crocheting, and the hyperbolic math needed to evoke coral forms through crochet. We’ll be hosting student and community crochet parties across campus and in town. The project includes two distinct shows as well:  an immersive installation of the Wertheim’s “Traveling Crochet Coral Reef” in the Sesnon Gallery, and a “Satellite Reef” of our very own Santa Cruz-made coral in the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Professor Emerita Donna Haraway brought this project to our attention more than a year ago and we are excited to be hosting this amazing example of art, marine science, ecological activism, and community engagement. 

As we launch into 2016, I want to say a public farewell and offer my heartfelt thanks to Arts Division Emeritus Dean David Yager for bringing me to UC Santa Cruz and launching the Institute of the Arts and Sciences project. David is off to new adventures as President of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where I’m sure his impact will be immediate and invaluable. I’ll miss his energy, passion for the arts, and commitment to the IAS project. He was an inspiring colleague, and I wish David all the best in Philadelphia. 

Finally, many thanks to everyone who supported us last year with contributions of money, time, ideas, information, and good will.  Keep it coming, and I hope to see you in February, either on the 2nd for our next LASER, or on the 11th for the opening of Collective Museum, or for both! 

John