Reflections on the End-of-Semester

End-of-Semester Reflections 
Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arts and Design

SPJ-Headshot-2014“Where would our society be,” asks Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, “without the aesthetic dimension of life centering on form, image, language, movement, narrative, and expression? Without art, we would cease to be human.” Read on. How poignant to have this reminder from our campus leader – and our boss –  about the importance of creative imagining for our students and throughout public life. Indeed, as we reach the end of the fall semester, we are looking forward to final exhibitions, essays, workshops, and performances that show our students and faculty putting all of those aesthetic dimensions to use.  And in the wider Bay Area, we find many dynamic events– some holiday-themed—that show our region’s commitment to artistic innovation.

At ARC | Arts + Design, the staff and I have been working steadily with a wide network of colleagues on backstage processes and on fronstage events that feature, fortify, and mobilize the creative excellence in the Arts + Design at UC Berkeley and in our wider community. Inspired by the Chancellor, this is a great moment to look back on the first few months of the Arts + Design Initiative and to look ahead toward the excitement that 2016 will bring.


On Communication: On the frontstage, we re-vamped the current ARC website and our monthly newsletter to feature a wider panoply of arts and design offerings throughout the campus and in the Bay Area, surfacing exciting opportunities from Journalism to Environmental Design, from Engineering to the Humanities, from Cal Performances to BAMPFA, displaying to ourselves and to the public our campus’s vast creative ecology.

On Public Programming: ARC also presented our own interdisciplinary gatherings that crossed visual, performing, and new media art forms. We co-presented the internationally recognized Art, Technology, & Culture Colloquium in partnership with the Berkeley Center for New Media; and a two-part event titled “Revisions in Time,” working with Cal Performances and our English and Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies Departments.

A+D at Berkeley and Beyond: After taking up my new role as AVCAD, I have had the chance to share the work of the Arts + Design Initiative in many other public forums — with The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a consortium of research universities committed to the arts, with the Chicago Humanities Festival, as well as with Homecoming audiences, with alumni from the College of Environmental Design, and with alumni groups in New York, the Central Coast, and in Paris.

New Buildings/Exhibitions/Programming/Courses: In 2016, we are looking ahead to the opening of the new BAMPFA, to the launch of a Wednesday noon public lecture series, and to an allied Big Ideas/Mellon Course entitled “Thinking Across the Arts and Design at Berkeley.” We are delighted that Chancellor Dirks is looking forward to this new format, too, one which mixes cutting-edge research and curation, general undergraduate teaching, and public outreach in one package.  (As a campus arts administrator, I find I am always looking for two-fers that advance different aspects of our university’s mission; this one is a three-fer!)

Campus Consultation: We hosted five mini-summits and many consultations on core campus systems related to A+D including student internships, student ticketing, fundraising, website/communication, and the future of arts and design research; for those who want to get in the weeds with us, see minutes and lists of attendees here.

On Arts Access: As exciting as this frontstage is, the backstage of the Arts + Design Initiative has been even more dynamic.  We have been mapping a “culture pass” program that will facilitate student participation in art and cultural activities on campus and beyond.

On Websites: We are also reviewing proposals from several top Bay Area web firms to design a comprehensive Master Website to feature all Arts and Design departments, schools, centers, presenting organizations, museums, and student groups on campus.  Alumna and entrepreneur Gina Pell volunteered to lead the process. We consider this website to be an essential foundation for the Initiative, a portal that gathers our arts and design ecology and offers new forums for collaboration.  Its construction will be quite an undertaking but a formative one for all of us.

On Fundraising: The Arts + Design Initiative also launched its first fundraising effort with Big Give; there we developed a format to encourage giving to the Initiative itself as well as our many allied campus units. (I’d say it went pretty well; the total giving to arts and design units across the campus nearly quintupled over last year’s intake, from $102,000 to nearly $500,000 this year!)

On Staffing: We’ve made some exciting staff hires, luring Amber Fogarty from the Office of the Provost to join as the Executive Assistant for the Initiative. We are in the final rounds of interviewing candidates for a new Coordinator of Organizational Strategy. Stay tuned to meet the new member of our team!

On Facilities: The firm of Cal alum Mark Cavagnero has created some terrific ideas for renovating a John Galen Howard building in the heart of campus, Dwinelle Annex, to serve as a creative commons and incubation space for the Arts + Design Initiative.  Meanwhile, TDPS faculty and administrative staff will be moving to new digs in Dwinelle Hall in May! Finally, both TDPS and Cal Performances are also in the midst of exciting strategic facilities planning this year.  More Master Plans to come.

On New Opportunities: And finally, with this newsletter, we announce our annual ARC Fellows program (with increased stipends and Professor Ed Campion as Fellows leader); plus, we are also announcing a new Arts + Design Advisors program, encouraging faculty and expert staff to roll up their sleeves and help us to articulate Berkeley’s core strengths and imaginatively address its core needs across all arts and design organizations on campus.


Our first semester has been quite a whirlwind of activity, and we are thrilled (and humbled) to know that we have even more to look forward to in 2016. We have already begun to gather the calendars of all of our allied units. Believe me, the roster of forthcoming public programs, exhibitions, performances, screenings, and innovative new courses is looking like quite a spread.  We invite you to learn more about the Arts + Design Initiative and get involved at

Our very best to you from me and from our incredible staff at ARC | Arts + Design.  And please join me in sharing a big Holiday Thanks to the incredibly generous colleagues and students who have dedicated their time to help us at every stage of ARC | Arts + Design.


Shannon Jackson
Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arts and Design
Cyrus Hadidi Chair in the Arts and Humanities
Professor of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies and Rhetoric