UCSC's New Institute of the Arts and Sciences
An immersive exhibit on climate change, showing wall-sized photos of Antartica, complete with ambient sounds. A close-up look at conceptions of human health, filled with contemporary art, African divination objects, huge photos of frozen viruses, and data from the forefront of cancer research. A tour through the politics of water consumption and the future of America's water supply, including satellite imagery and an interactive, multimedia look at a threatened Sierra Nevada watershed.
These are the kinds of teaching and research projects that will be showcased at UCSC's newly developing Institute of the Arts and Sciences, an emerging endeavor that harkens to UCSC's roots as an innovative educational experiment meant to blur the lines between disciplines to beautiful effect. Even since it opened its doors in 1965, UC Santa Cruz has been a place where seemingly different areas of study can "talk" to each other across lines, much to the benefit of students and professors alike. This is a place to explore unexpected convergences between, say, visual arts and astrophysics, and computer gaming and climatology.
And now, the campus is about to take this kind of dialogue to a whole new level. A select group of faculty are now making plans for the state-of-the-art institute — part museum, part teaching/research facility, performance center, and meeting space, complete with study area, a café, and the kind of jaw-dropping Monterey Bay views that make it hard to focus on your lunch.
It is no wonder the campus is already abuzz about the project.
"This speaks to UCSC's institutional history," says Arts Dean David Yager. "A lot of times we talk about the classroom experience and research, but it is equally important to engage students across the university in creative and innovative ways. The institute is about the transformative student experience." Yager visualizes the Institute as a place for rigorous intellectual inquiry, a center for research, and an exciting destination for visitors who will be drawn to exhibits that portray complex and thought-provoking subjects in fascinating, visual, and interactive ways.
John Weber, the Institute's founding director, emphasizes the creative "catalytic role" that faculty will play at institute exhibitions, which will be linked to teaching and learning on campus, offering a series of starting points for student research.
The center will also host research residencies, and include a seminar space with room for 120 people. UCSC students will benefit by attending classes there, and by using exhibits and holdings as research subjects. They can also take advantage of internship and volunteer opportunities, serve as assistants to curators for exhibit research, work as gallery monitors, and conduct peer tours or lead tours for off-campus groups.
While the Institute will bring a new attraction to campus, Weber is committed to emphasizing the cross-disciplinary learning and research that is already taking place.
"It will highlight exciting work that is going on across campus, much of it behind closed doors," he said. "If people are visiting campus, and you want to show them this exciting work, here is where you can take them."
by Dan White