Just over one year ago, when the world turned upside down, CalArtians did what they always do — rallied together to support one another.
Faculty overhauled class plans for a remote reality. Students modified their work, and reached out in compassionate support for one another. Staff put in long hours to keep the Institute healthy and running. And alumnx volunteered and provided support to help reinforce our changing reality.
Today, the Institute hasn’t just survived, we’ve come through a pandemic better than others because of the essential strength and resilience of the CalArts way.
While it’s not over, there is much to be proud about, and hope and relief that comes from the results that the community has made happen through its actions. Each of us gave up something for our collective benefit over this historic past year. By giving of our time, care, spirit, resources and creativity, CalArtians banded together with the commitment to one another that’s always helped define our community.
This mutual dedication fueled the incredible achievements of creative and compassionate perseverance that fill this issue of The Pool. Indeed, our solidarity lifted us through months of challenges — including what might turn out to be the hardest financial moment in CalArts history — and propels us into the better days now, and in the days ahead.
Stirring stories like those in the pages here are possible only because you — as a CalArtian — have made them so. I extend my thanks and appreciation to the entire alumnx community for your relentless drive, hard work and sacrifice to forge this new chapter. Because of you, we move forward resolved and inspired.
That inspiration also is reaching a full complement of new CalArtians who will join us in the fall. Never before has CalArts seen so many applicants that also had as high an overall quality of creative work as we have in this cycle.
We’ll spend the summer preparing both for their arrival and for what we expect will be a robust return to in-person learning, collaboration and art-making. Likewise, we’re beyond delighted to begin engaging the classes of 2021 and 2022 — and the work they have made — with public and in-person audiences in ways that were impossible for over a year.
Our commitment to those classes saw extraordinary reinforcements during the pandemic year, including from the alumnx who twice stepped in to help make virtual graduation a success. From last spring and throughout this health crisis, alumnx have shown up and delivered in the moments when the community has needed them most.
They have proven and deepened a CalArts truth: Once a CalArtian, always a CalArtian. For everything alumnx have done to sustain and better the community over the past year — each of you has my appreciation and gratitude. Your example has bolstered all of us.
As we move into the new academic year, we’ll be drawing on your wisdom and insight again, this time as part of our new Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Cooperative. Engaging activity in all areas of the Institute, the cooperative is redoubling CalArts’ efforts to confront and work to eradicate the structural, systemic and societal injustices threaded through creative communities.
We know that joining the CalArts community remains out of reach for too many talented artists from underrepresented backgrounds. Our IDEA work will need alumnx input as we keep developing specific actions to uphold those namesake principles.
Our progress toward this more inclusive CalArts received two tremendous boosts in recent months — the foundation of the Charles Gaines MFA Art Fellowship, and the start of an Arts Posse Scholars program for undergraduates.
Charles, a longtime CalArts faculty and celebrated artist, provided the initial donation for the fellowship, which will enable critical scholarship support for Black students in our MFA Art program. Lead matching gifts from trustees and alum were subsequently bolstered by others who hadn’t given to CalArts before and who had, ultimately supplying more than a half-million dollars to help launch the fellowship for the years to come.
With the Arts Posse, CalArts has partnered with the New York-based Posse Foundation to help create a diverse pipeline of future leaders in the creative arts. We’ll be selecting our first cohort of Arts Posse Leadership Scholars this fall in concert with the foundation. The cohort will start its CalArts journey in the fall of 2022.
This year will also mark the transition of School of Art Dean Tom Lawson to faculty. Tom, who has led the school for three decades, will have a creative leave in the spring of 2022 before he returns as a member of the faculty in the School of Art. His leadership has been instrumental in a broad range of curricular innovations and facility improvements for the school. I’m thrilled that he will remain as part of CalArts. We’re indebted to Tom for the vision and passion he’s brought to inspiring and equipping new generations of artists.
His work is a wonderful example of another CalArts truth: What we create as artists goes on to shape the future. Society has grown new appreciation for that, and for us, amid the cruelties and renewals of the pandemic.
As we fashion our future, please accept my thanks for everything you’ve done over this past year — as CalArtians, as artists, as members of this community. We couldn’t have reached this moment without you.