The founding Director for the new interdisciplinary Institute of the Arts and Sciences, John Weber has been on the job only three short months and already he's deep into planning for what is expected to be an unprecedented facility for research and practice alliances.
In collaboration with Arts Dean David Yager, Weber is putting the finishing touches on a day-long public event—Making the Institute: 3 Conversations—to be held in the Alumni Room at the University Center on Friday, April 26, from 9am — 4:30pm. A wrap-up reception will take place on the balcony of the DARC (Digital Arts Research Center), with a special preview of the DANM (Digital Arts and New Media) MFA exhibition on view there.
Starting the day off will be UC Berkeley's Walter Hood, an architect whose work Weber describes as “design in relation to audience and community.” In a keynote address, he will consider how good design can foster community and engagement, a key consideration for the new institute and its design planning process. Following Hood’s keynote, “There will be three groups gathered to help us address three key questions,” says Weber, “questions crucial to the Institute's development.”
The first conversation involves Interdisciplinarity,“what it is,when does it work, and when might it add less rather than more,” explains Weber. “This school has a great tradition of interdisciplinary teaching and research, and so for this conversation we have invited people like the Center for Cultural Studies' Jim Clifford, one of the founding voices of that tradition at UCSC.” Clifford will be joined by UCSC astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, a co-founder of UCSC's Open Lab art, science,and technology collaboration. Kim Yasuda, co-director of the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) will take part, as will Marina McDougall of San Francisco's Exploratorium, with Dean David Yager moderating.
Relationship to the World
The second conversation, Envelope, Contents, and Community, will build on Walter Hood’s ideas to explore how museum architecture intersects with landscape design, programming and audiences. “The institute should function as a gathering place for people,” says Weber, “a social and intellectual hub on campus, and an attraction for off-campus visitors. How do you make that happen in terms of built form?” Engagiing in this question will be Harrell Fletcher, head of the graduate program in art and social practice at Portland State University, and architect Teddy Cruz from UC San Diego. Connie Wolf of Stanford's Cantor Arts Center and formerly founding director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum will moderate this conversation.
Relationship to the Academy
The third conversation is entitled Presenting in the Academy. “The University of California is a place of higher education with its commitment to teaching, research and service—how is this different than, say a Museum of Modern Art? We've invited Kristy Edmunds, director of UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance, to be involved in this conversation along with Lawrence Rinder, director of the Berkeley Art Museum. Both have extensive experience outside the academy, as well as inside,” Weber points out. They will be joined by UCSC's Elisabeth Cameron from History of Art and Visual Culture, who brought extensive museum experience to her current role in academia. John Weber will moderate this conversation.
Weber hopes this initial day-long gathering will help to inform agendas for future conversations. As a follow-up, the Institute is already planning a series of Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendevous events for next year in collaboration with Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts,Sciences and Technology. Weber is also collaborating with musician Karlton Hester, dance professor Ted Warburton and physicist Greg Laughlin, who have gathered together a team to create an international festival for arts and sciences here at UCSC next year either spring or fall 2014.
“Conversations are about engaging everybody, and we'll get as far as we can on this one,” notes Weber philosophically. “And then there will be more conversations.” For this robust event designed to help map the trajectory of the projected Institute, Weber notes, “we have an amazing group of speakers to help us think about where we are going——I couldn't be happier.”