Together Creatively, near and far

Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor

Perhaps all of us have heard too many times that this was “a year like no other.” It was indeed a “surreal” year and a year to which many are happily bidding good riddance.  Of course, it was also a year that propelled a good deal of reflection about what it means to be healthy, what it means to be just, and what it means it means to be together, if from a physical distance.  None of us in the arts and education will ever take proximity for granted again.  At the same time, all of us — including all students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community at Berkeley — have gamely developed creative ways to gather and support each other’ from afar.

Herewith, you’ll find a round-up of our Fall semester’s highlights in research, public programming, education, arts access, and student life. Taking advantage of COVID's “silver linings'' (admittedly another overused phrase), we transferred A+D Mondays and A+D Thursdays online where they set a record for “attendance” since we first started these series four years ago. On Mondays, our wide community has been tuning in every week to hear new perspectives on the aesthetics of being “together” at a time that simultaneously requires us to reimagine the health of our shared political life. We will continue this theme with a blockbuster line-up in the spring semester. Meanwhile, Art Practice Professor Greg Niemeyer led our flagship course, “Thinking through the Arts + Design at Berkeley,” with vision and commitment, simultaneously coordinating (with A+D’s own Paris Cotz) a Thursday noon lecture series focused on Visual Cultures. Next semester, yours truly will offer a new version of the same public course, also offering a free Thursday lecture series on the past and future of video and “time-based media art.” Please join us.

Adjacent to our weekly programming, A+D was thrilled to support new forms of (remote) creative pedagogy as stellar faculty put our Creative Discovery Course Grants to innovative use. Check out courses such as Music Perception & Cognition, Spoken Word, Introduction to the Archaeology of the Greek World, Design Innovation, and more. You can see a round-up of some of their themes, tools, and final projects below and on our newly built page devoted to the “creative” dimensions of UC-Berkeley’s campus-wide Discovery program. When it came to the Berkeley Arts Passport, we found we had to “pivot” (yet another overused word), gathering a whole variety of online cultural experiences for our students. Meanwhile, on the backend, A+D’s Soomin Suh has been working with campus IT and Modo (the firm behind our campus’s mobile app) to develop new functionalities so that when arts organizations are allowed to open again, we will be ready. More projects continue apace, including A+D’s student club—Students for Creative Discovery—that gathers student leaders from a range of arts clubs to connect a wide network of students to new opportunities. At the same time, our social media, our Made at Berkeley gallery, and the newest edition of our Made at Berkeley book all celebrate campus creativity and the capstone achievements of our students. 

I am continually inspired and humbled by the creative resilience of our students and colleagues, as well as by the innovation and good humor of our core staff, Paris Cotz, Soomin Suh, and K.C. Forcier. Finally, at a time of COVID fiscal crisis, all of the above projects are one hundred percent dependent on generous donations of people who care about interdisciplinary making, people who know that creative action builds interpersonal connections amongst students and community.  We are grateful to all of our donors this year but especially to core supporters such as Buzz Weisenfeld, Jackie Jackson, Nancy Olson, Coleman Fung, Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi, Susan Swig, Peter and Cathy Halstead, Laura and Gregg Perloff, and Pam and Dick Kramlich. 

So before you bid good riddance to 2020, take a moment to scroll below to see how much we have to be proud of and grateful for.  Then join me in looking ahead to 2021, a year when we will occupy shared space again, with new ideas of what it means to thrive and renewed gratitude for our work together.

Happy Holidays!


Shannon Jackson