Action on behalf of the Arts, Design, Humanities and Our Public Life

Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor

The arts, design, humanities, and all centers of culture ensure the vibrancy of our region and our country. The temporary closings of museums, theaters, libraries, convening spaces, and concert venues are providing new reminders of what we lose as a society when our cultural sector is imperiled. Last week--while all of us were coming to terms with the public health risks of CORID-19—I was still in Washington D.C. in order to discuss the importance of cultural health. Even as Congress members, their staff, and I were necessarily preoccupied with the effects of the virus, I was struck by how much they still wanted to discuss the future of our country’s cultural life. While UCB’s Governmental relations officer, Michelle Moskowitz, and I fist-bumped, elbow-tapped, and air-shook our way through offices on Capitol Hill, I was able to express my steadfast support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in honor of National Humanities Advocacy Day. In response to the current Administration’s proposed elimination of the NEA and NEH, I strongly supported increased appropriations to these agencies as well as to the CBC and IMLS. 

Throughout these conversations, I was also pleased to share initiatives underway at UC Berkeley to advance the arts, design, and humanities as part of our broad Creative Discovery platform and campus strategic plan for elevating the Student Experience.  Berkeley Arts + Design is committed to integrating the arts, design, and humanities within every aspect of our public research university. Our campus is mobilizing these and a range of fields in our celebration of 150 Years of Women at Cal. The public reach and reflective methods of the arts, design, and humanities are central to our efforts to mark 400 years of resistance to slavery in the United States, including a range of race-based public art interventions on campus. Additionally, we are committed to integrating creative and humanistic pedagogy into STEM/M education. A+D has hosted a range of public events and think tanks responding to a seminal report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (NASEM). NASEM authors argue that the integration of the humanities and arts with science, engineering, and medicine at the undergraduate and graduate level will better prepare students for a 21st century workplace as well as for 21st century citizenship on both local and global scales. 

While in D.C., I had the honor of meeting with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) and Congressman John Garamendi (D-Sacramento) and staff from the offices of Representatives Matsui (D-Sacramento), Thompson (D-Santa Rosa), Swalwell (D-Castro Valley), Lee (D-Oakland), Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek). It was also a treat to re-connect with Ashley Bear, Senior Program Officer with the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. In addition to the topics above, these leaders were also were thrilled to hear all that UC- Berkeley is doing to ensure cultural equity through our Arts Passport and by promoting Creative Careers, Jobs, and Internships on our Student Resources site. Meanwhile, a copy of our Made at Berkeley catalogue now sits in the reception areas of twelve legislators. 

If you believe in the importance of sustaining a vibrant cultural life for our country, I encourage you to take two minutes now to write to your Congressional representatives and ask them to vote in support of preserving the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBC) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). All nine Congressional offices I met with agreed to sign-on and to appeal to Appropriations Committee Chairs in the Assembly and Senate to support increased funding of the NEH and NEA. Help us amplify this message by writing now.  While those of us who can are hunkering down in the privacy of our homes this week, we can still take public action now.