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2023 Arts Division Retreat Welcomes Dear White Women Authors and Honors Gina Dent


Dean of the Arts Division, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, opened the 2023 Arts Division annual retreat on March 3 with what she termed as “a critical day for building relationships in what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, calls ‘the beloved community’ where we all feel cared for in the aftermath and even within ongoing conflicts and challenges–that this is possible, that we can assume the best of each other and find ways to help each other and care for each other.”

It was a fitting quote especially considering that the Arts Division faculty and staff who attended had been asked to a bit of “homework” in preparation for the event’s workshops which included reading Dr. King’s classic Letter from a Birmingham Jail as well as listening to the Dear White Women podcast episode, How Being Anti-History Hurts All of Us, produced and hosted by Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Grahamwho were at the retreat to lead a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop along with breakout sessions.

“What is really wonderful about our speakers is how they wish to identify how we live and do DEI in everyday life,” said Dean Celine (as she is fondly known). “They invite us to ask questions about why anti-racism work is personal to us. I welcome them to our community in our work of reshaping our institution every day, as bound by the three goals we identified in our DEI Action Plans last year: Advance Faculty Diversity, Decolonize the Curriculum, and Establish Regional Pipelines to Demonstrate Accountability to the Communities we bring and the regions we live.”

All of the participants were given copies of the Dear White Women books along with the book written by alumna Kate Schatz called Do the Work: An Antiracist Activity Book. Schatz had been scheduled to give the keynote address but had to cancel due to illness.

This year’s Arts Advocate Award was given to Gina Dent, Associate Professor of Feminist Studies, History of Consciousness, and Legal Studies, here at UC Santa Cruz. Dean Celine chose Dent as this year’s recipient for her support, vision and creativity in co-creating and grant writing for the Visualizing Abolition series with the Institute of the Arts and Sciences’ director, Rachel Nelson. 

“Their exceptional programming brought more visitors to the San Jose Museum of Contemporary Art than any other exhibition in the history of the museum,” said Dean Celine. “Their radical vision provided support throughout the pandemic and through George Floyd's murder and protests, placing UCSC Arts at the center of the dialogue in support of police reform and prison abolition…we are so grateful for and in awe of Gina’s outstanding and inspiring work!”

The Arts Division’s newest faculty members followed the Arts Advocacy Award presentation. Cláudio Bueno, Assistant Professor, Social Design; Joseph Erb, Assistant Professor, Film and Digital Media; Acting Assistant Professor of Performance, Play and Design, Rebecca WearGrant Whipple, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Art Department; Assistant Professor of Music, James Gordon Williams; and Associate Professor Marcia Ochoa, from Performance, Play and Design all gave engaging presentations about their latest work.

The retreat then transitioned into a thought-provoking and inspiring “fireside chat” held by Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham, with an introduction by Karlton Hester, Associate Dean of DEI, Professor of Music, and Director of the Digital Arts and New Media program. They discussed their moving and personal stories of what it meant to them to each grow up as biracial women, with each having a parent who is a Japanese immigrant, and how they originally met 25 years ago while walking out of a racial identity discussion at Harvard, and consequently became best friends. 

Suzuki Graham also told heart wrenching stories of what it has been like for her to be raising a biracial son who identifies as Black, and needing to teach him the realities of what that means in terms of his personal safety. Blanchard shared what it meant for her to have identified as white when she was younger and how she came to terms with embracing her diverse background. “Taking about race doesn’t have to be scary…change doesn’t come from complacency; let’s get uncomfortable together,” they affirmed. 

After the thoughtful discussion, retreat participants broke into groups to further talk about issues around race and DEI and how that affects all of us in various different ways. Many shared very touching personal stories and all agreed that it was a very positive and valuable experience.

As the retreat came to a close everyone came together to reflect on their conversations as they joined together for lunch. “Today inspires me in learning so much together,” said Dean Celine.