With the UA arts district quieting down in advance of the University’s winter closure later this week, I am pleased to take a moment to share some highlights from an exciting and action-packed fall semester in the College of Fine Arts.
The stories featured in this newsletter shine a spotlight on a small sampling of the extraordinary work taking place across the CFA, and its impact within the College, across campus, around Southern Arizona, and beyond.
CFA in Schools offers arts experiences to K-12 students who would not otherwise have such opportunities. Generous support from the Lovell Foundation has allowed Brad Richter (CFA Director of Outreach) and his team of faculty and graduate students to envision and implement a greatly expanded set of activities that will broaden and deepen the impact of this important work. Stay tuned as we develop visual arts and theatre components that will complement the existing programs in guitar, percussion, and dance.
The wonderfully inventive UA Opera production of La Hija de Rappaccini, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Cynthia Stokes, offered students a unique opportunity to take their talents to unexpected places and spaces. For several days, UA Opera transformed the stunning atrium of the ENR2 Building into the enchanted garden of the opera, through which the performers moved—and flew! Bringing the arts into unexpected contexts offers a powerful strategy for new kinds of audience development, engagement, and impact. You can expect more of it from us in the future!
Jillian Corsie’s (BFA 2010, TFTV) documentary Second Assault is a deeply personal examination of sexual assault, one of the most troubling issues facing not only higher education, but also our broader culture. Although I was unable to attend the on-campus presentation, I did have the opportunity to meet Jillian and see the film the previous day when it was screened to a full house as part of The Loft Film Festival, where it won the audience choice award. Jillian is just one among countless alumni doing important and impactful work made possible by the training they received in our academic programs, under the close mentorship of dedicated faculty like Beverly Seckinger.
Finally, as those in attendance can attest, the reception celebrating the life of Joseph Gross was a wonderful and fitting tribute to an extraordinary friend and supporter of the School of Art. Although I did not have the pleasure of meeting Joe, the stories and memories offered by friends and colleagues during that afternoon painted a vivid picture of an individual with a passion for art, and for life. Through his generous bequest supporting the programming of the Joseph Gross Gallery, Joe will have an enduring impact on future generations of students.
Throughout this letter, I have used “engagement” and “impact” to describe our work in the CFA. Engagement and impact are foundational principles in the UA’s public-facing, land-grant mission. The arts have an increasingly vital role to play in enacting this mission, and I look forward to partnering with each of you to fully realize this important vision.
I wish you a joyous holiday season, and look forward to crossing paths in the New Year. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for any reason.
Dean, College of Fine Arts
Vice President for the Arts
It’s a fact. Students who participate in school music programs have better attendance, make better grades, and are more likely to attend college and have more lucrative careers than students who do not participate in school music programs. That’s why guitarist and educator Brad Richter began Lead Guitar, an outreach project that grew from a small workshop in 1999 with a group of high-risk teenagers in Page, AZ, to a nonprofit that now provides music teaching programs to over 60 schools in 5 states. In 2013, Lead Guitar became affiliated with the University of Arizona’s College of Fine Arts and three new CFA in Schools programs, a family of in-school performing arts programs including UpBeat, Step Up and Music First, were developed on the Lead Guitar model. Since then, CFA in Schools and Lead Guitar have had a positive impact on the lives of 16,500 students, primarily from low socio-economic backgrounds, with regular arts instruction from master teaching artists, and in collaboration with UA Presents have served tens of thousands more through in-school concerts and university engagement activities.
In recognition of the work of Lead Guitar and CFA in Schools, and in support of an upcoming three-year collaborative K-12 arts education project, the David and Lura Lovell Foundation recently awarded the two organizations matching funds totaling $343,000. Founded in 1994, the Lovell Foundation prioritizes funding for projects associated with Mental Health, Integrative Health and Wellness, Gender Parity and Youth Access to the Arts. This grant is the Foundation’s largest to date for a project within the their key priority area, Youth Access to the Arts.
“The College of Fine Arts and the Lovell Foundation were among the first to see the potential of Lead Guitar as a model for outreach,” says Brad Richter. “Their support, guidance and endorsement over the years have changed the trajectory of Lead Guitar dramatically. This initiative represents an intensifying of our shared commitment to broadening access to in-depth arts education.”
The recipient project – A Model for Arts Outreach: Creating Sustainable Arts Programming in America’s Toughest Schools – expands on the model for building in-school arts programs developed by Lead Guitar and adopted by CFA in Schools. Each program provides daily to twice-weekly in-school arts instruction, professional development for teachers, in-school concerts from touring artists, and performance and engagement opportunities on the campus of the University of Arizona. The programs are free to schools with 80% or more of their students eligible for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch.
With this funding support, the College of Fine Arts will expand the UpBeat, Step Up, and Music First programs to more public schools in low SES communities within Pima County. Lead Guitar will increase its national reach by expanding operations in Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major urban areas. As was done with great success at the UA, Lead Guitar will provide a framework for arts education outreach by pinpointing teaching artists from each local community and mentoring them as they develop their own program using the Lead Guitar model. Lead Guitar’s institutional partners, like the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts and The Aspen Music Festival and School, provide a home base around which these new, locally-conceived programs can flourish.
Brad Richter: “In the short-term the Lovell Foundation investment allows the CFA in Schools family of programs to reach thousands more students with direct arts instruction and demonstrate through data gathering and evaluation the positive effects we see every day in schools. In the long term, the Lovell Foundation investment will be a catalyst for change that continues well beyond the three-year term of the initiative, creating pods of self-sustaining, locally-grown arts programs supported by evidence-based research.”
The Lovell Foundation, a Tucson-based family foundation, embraces causes close to their hearts. The foundation has invested over $22 million in 70 nonprofit organizations for local and national projects supporting Mental Health, Integrative Health and Wellness, Youth Access to the Arts, and Gender Parity. Executive Director John Amoroso said, “We believe that experiencing the arts through education or participation contributes to the development of well-rounded individuals. We prioritize initiatives such as Lead Guitar and CFA in Schools that have the opportunity to systemically improve youth access to arts, especially for those children most in need.”
The CFA in Schools team is excited to continue their work under the direction of Dean Andrew Schulz who sees tremendous potential in the outreach program. Dean Schulz said, “The programs that have been successfully developed and implemented under Brad Richter’s leadership by CFA in Schools in conjunction with Lead Guitar demonstrate in very real terms the transformative power of the arts. These initiatives have the proven capacity to positively impact the lives of K-12 students who would not otherwise have arts experiences. They position the College of Fine Arts and the University of Arizona as national leaders in community-based arts education, and this is precisely the kind of work in which we need to be engaged in order to ‘live’ the UA’s land grant mission.”
In addition to providing daily arts instruction in schools, CFA in Schools facilitates in-school concerts from touring artists visiting Tucson as part of the UA Presents series. These are opportunities for students to hear, meet and be inspired by some of the world’s most impactful artists.
Over two evenings in November, stage and opera director Cynthia Stokes created a little history. The Assistant Professor of Music’s vision for an outdoor site-specific production of La hija de Rappaccini, the chamber opera by the Mexican composer Daniel Catán, came to life. The project marked the first time in the history of the UA Voice and Opera Theater program that a production was held outside the Fred Fox School of Music’s Crowder Hall and the first time the School produced a Spanish language opera.
The opera was staged in the courtyard of the Environmental and Natural Resources Building, the plantenhanced public space beautifully mirroring Rappaccini’s sequestered garden. Animated by theatrical projections, aerialists and puppeteers, the opera drew capacity audiences, including families with children, on both nights.
La hija de Rappaccini, based on Octavio Paz’ play from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1844 short story Rappaccini’s Daughter, tells the story of a dangerously gifted doctor who experiments with the laws of nature, his beautiful daughter who tends her father’s deadly plants, and the student who falls in love with her. The opera was the centerpiece of a series of panels, events, and exhibits to challenge perceptions around the ethical, moral, political and social issues posed within the story. The interdisciplinary event attracted support and participation from Biosphere 2, UA Global Initiatives, UA School of Plant Science, UA Department of History, UA Department of Spanish & Portuguese, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, and UNAM, among others.
The mission of the Voice and Opera Theater program is to promote opera and vocal music as a living art form that provokes, thrills and transforms lives. It encourages the development of young musical artists and works to cultivate audiences of the future. La hija’s visionary director Cynthia Stokes, currently presiding over the program, said, “La hija was the perfect opera for this location, because Mother Earth herself is represented at ENR2. Opera is the perfect art form to be the center piece of a weekend of art, science and humanities conversations which focused upon the most pressing issues surrounding what it means to be human.”
“My passion to create site-specific operatic work comes from a notion about how we perceive ourselves in relationship to the world. When we come upon a performance in a perfect architectural location, we see this performance and the location in new and hopefully positive ways. Then, we begin to see ourselves in a new and hopefully positive way. I believe that maybe we begin to see our community and our world in a new way as well because we have discovered that we have more in common than we ever imagined.
This project was my fall opera class and without my students, production team and the many people who said, ‘yes, how can we help you make this happen’, we never would have gotten this experience off the ground. It is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together.”
A devastating personal experience was the catalyst for Jillian Corsie’s film Second Assault. In 2005, a month into her freshman year, the Theatre, Film & Television student was sexually assaulted in her campus dormitory. When she reported the assault to campus police, she was told that what happened to her was considered consensual.
Eleven years later in 2016, Jillian, then a broadcast content editor in Los Angeles, responded to a Tweet encouraging women to share their first assaults. She went public for the first time, tweeting about the assault and the distressing police response. The tweet changed her life. It went viral, and Jillian was encouraged to tell her story. Along with fellow filmmaker Amy Rosner, she returned to campus to confront the police officer who had taken her report years earlier. This time the interaction was captured on film.
“After years of vilifying this man,” says Jillian, “I was able to see the humanity in him. Confronting my past in this way gave me back the chance to take control of my own narrative for the first time.”
The resulting documentary, Second Assault, has been seen at nearly 20 film festivals around the country and each screening has sparked conversations about survivors, consent, and what the police can do better in their handling of these cases. On November 13, Jillian returned to UA to screen the film and undertake a post-screening Q&A alongside David Caballero, the UAPD police officer who had taken her report.
Theatre, Film & Television Professor Beverly Seckinger has been following the project since the beginning, when Jillian contacted her for advice and support, and could not be more proud of her former student. “In Spring 2018, several months into her festival run, I forwarded her a message from President Robbins announcing a series of new initiatives “to improve our Title IX efforts and our support for those who have survived sexual or domestic violence and harassment, including launching a national search for a full-time Title IX Coordinator.” Jillian responded that she would definitely be interested in a campus screening of the film, so it made sense to organize a screening in conjunction with the Tucson premiere at the Loft Film Festival in November.
Being present for the campus screening of Second Assault, followed by a Q&A with Jillian and David, was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in nearly 28 years of teaching here at the U of A. Having taught Jillian documentary history and production as a college student, yet being completely unaware at the time of this devastating experience she had endured on this very campus, and then witnessing both her courage as a person and artistry as a filmmaker, to tell this story on screen, and now to be sharing the film with current students, faculty, community members, and that brand-new Title IX Coordinator, all of whom contributed to the lively discussion, was really incredible. Her film has raised awareness and spurred discussion among audience members, opened the door for other assault survivors to work through their own experiences, and contributed to a new awareness among police at the UA and other campuses, who continue to evolve their procedures for responding to reports of sexual assault.”
UAPD officer David Caballero, who remains in regular touch with Jillian, added “UAPD is so far removed from how we responded to sexual assaults in 2005. I believe we are better equipped to handle these situations and cases with a genuine empathy for the survivors, and I have no doubt our officers will acquit themselves well in their response today.
It is my hope that this film has had a positive impact on our community. I wanted to be as transparent and candid [as possible] about my role and involvement in Jillian’s case in 2005. If I can play a role in instilling confidence in the UA community in its police department by acknowledging that we have learned and changed and improved, I will gladly make that effort.”
This semester the School of Art paid tribute to beloved Art Advisory Board member, collector, chemical engineer and visionary philanthropist Joseph Gross. Legacy: 40th Anniversary of the Joseph Gross Gallery was jointly curated by two of Joe’s favorite curators Brooke Grucella, Gallery Curator and Professor of Art Practice, and Julie Sasse, Chief Curator at the Tucson Museum of Art.
The exhibition was a celebration of the gallery’s continual successes and innovative shows, highlighting noteworthy exhibitors from the last few decades. While the gallery’s mission has evolved over its forty years, it has remained true to the core objective: to bring contemporary art to the greater Tucson community.
On November 15, more than 100 members of the art community gathered at the Gallery for a tribute to Joe Gross and a reception in his honor. Along with several of his chemical engineering colleagues, Joe was remembered by his grandson Seth Cohen, former College of Fine Arts Dean Maurice Sevigny, numerous art advisory board members, art collector Dan Leach and artists Bailey Doogan, Alfred Quiroz, and David Andrés, among many others.
“Joe was more than a donor and art board member, he was my friend,” says Brooke Grucella. “He always made me feel like I was on the right track with what I was doing with the gallery. Joe was a great supporter of Julie’s and my curatorial style so for this exhibit we focused on artists we love – William T. Wiley, Andrew Young, Bailey Doogan, Josh Keyes, Gregory Euclide, Erin M Riley, Claudio Dicochea and Mark Mulroney. Well over 1,000 people came to see their work.”
Joe enthusiastically attended School of Art events for more than forty years. His dedication to the galleries, the School of Art, the University of Arizona, and the Tucson arts community was profound and genuine. His memory lives on in the Joseph Gross endowment and the Helen Gross Memorial Award. Named for Joe’s mother, the Award is given each year to a School of Art graduate in recognition of outstanding performance in their area of study and is intended to support the exhibition of their visual research.