Advancing Human Creativity
University of the Arts’ mission is simple: to advance human creativity. UArts believes creativity is the most essential skill for success in today’s society and has educated generations of groundbreaking artists, performers, designers and creative leaders for more than 141 years.
After being granted university status in 1987, University of the Arts became the largest institution of its kind in the nation, offering programs in design, fine arts, media arts, crafts, music, dance, theater and writing. It now features 30 undergraduate arts majors, 15 graduate programs and the nation’s first PhD program in Creativity.
Dear students, faculty and staff,
I write to you today with an important update regarding our plan for opening this spring. The global pandemic continues to wreak havoc across our country and around the globe, and little has improved since this summer and fall—indeed, in some areas the impact has worsened. Together with senior staff, deans, faculty and staff councils, the crisis management team and trustees, we have continually evaluated and re-evaluated our position as an arts university in the heart of a major city and how we will continue our work.
Though it is not the conclusion any of us hoped to draw, it remains clear that there is no way to host a sustained in-person semester that maintains the quality of the educational experience without compromising our values and our number one priority: the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.
With this in mind and together with all members of President’s Council (senior staff and every dean), the Board of Trustees and with overwhelming support among faculty members, University of the Arts will remain remote for the spring 2021 semester, with all courses beginning as scheduled on Monday, January 25.
This decision has not been made lightly and is not what any of us aspire to or hope for. Above all, we as a community believe we must always return to our core values. As I stated in March, our mission of advancing human creativity can only be pursued when our community of students, faculty and staff are healthy, safe and thriving. To jeopardize the physical wellbeing of our UArts and broader community is a risk University of the Arts will not take. For spring 2021, we will continue to move forward as a creative community bound not by a physical campus but by a shared value. We know a number of questions may arise from this decision, and with this in mind, we have identified a few important updates.
- School- & Program-specific Updates & Events: Each school will be communicating with their students on what to expect from their programs this spring. Please watch your email for more information.
- Spring Semester Dates: All courses will begin as scheduled on Monday, January 25. The academic calendar for the spring semester remains unchanged.
- Commencement: No decision has been made yet regarding Commencement. Our intention is to host an in-person Commencement celebration. Final determinations will be made closer to that time and based on the advisement and regulations of local, state and national authorities.
- Residence Halls: Residence halls and all dining facilities will remain closed for the duration of the semester.
- Campus Buildings: All campus buildings will remain closed, and in most instances, students, faculty and staff will not be permitted to enter.
Looking ahead, please know planning continues. We remain committed and are already hard at work to devise a plan for UArts to resume some limited in-person engagement this spring. Updates will be made frequently, and we encourage all students, faculty and staff to check their emails regularly as well as bookmark uarts.edu/covid19. Families are encouraged to register for the Generations newsletter to receive public updates.
To all our UArts alumni and friends, what a year!
All of us have seen life transform before our eyes. At UArts, we’ve been privileged to witness how the creative spirit is thriving through these transitions. We are proud to share with you our first-ever online edition of Edge: The Magazine of University of the Arts, which can be downloaded as a PDF below.
Select stories are also available at edge.uarts.edu. In this issue, President David Yager reflects on the opportunities this year has presented. Additionally, we show how we are living apart, but creating together, and pay tribute to the generous alumni and donors that share our belief that creativity is not only essential for success, but also the catalyst for change.
Two storied Philadelphia universities—both renowned for heralding the transformative power of creativity—are partnering in order to reduce physician burnout in emergency medicine settings. The collaboration is supported by a grant awarded by the Emergency Medicine Foundation and HKS Architects. The purpose of this funding, as detailed on the HKS website, is to “help reimagine how emergency departments are designed by fostering innovation in an environment that has remained largely unchanged for decades.” This provides a unique opportunity for the University of the Arts to expand its work using immersive technology to explore the convergence of art, design and science.
“It is this type of cross-disciplinary thinking and creative collaboration that embraces the essential role of the arts that I believe is going to be critical to our success as society as we emerge from a global pandemic."
-David Yager, UArts President and CEO
Nearly 60% of emergency physicians report experiencing burnout which can result in chronic exhaustion, health deterioration from stress and the potential for compromised health care delivery to patients.
"Now more than ever, we must understand and redesign the human experience of frontline emergency rooms," said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. "It's a brilliant opportunity to provide much-needed relief and benefit emergency staff and their patients."
The study is distinct in both its approach and its cross-disciplinary team. It will be anchored by Jefferson’s Health Design Lab and the Emergency Medicine department and University of the Arts’ new Center for Immersive Media (CIM), a 5,600-square-foot facility devoted to emerging and new technologies. The project will use high-fidelity virtual reality modeling, conducted at CIM, to analyze the environmental factors of the Emergency Medicine department at Thomas Jefferson University.
“It is this type of cross-disciplinary thinking and creative collaboration that embraces the essential role of the arts that I believe is going to be critical to our success as society as we emerge from a global pandemic,” says David Yager, president and CEO of University of the Arts. “We are proud to partner with Jefferson not only on this groundbreaking and timely study, but on a number of projects that demonstrate the innovative power that’s at the intersection of the arts and sciences.”
Environmental factors such as lighting, presence of windows, access to nature, aesthetics and imagery, ventilation, space, circulation and wayfinding, noise, and ergonomics have been proven to correlate with levels of stress, fatigue and low job satisfaction in other healthcare settings, but have not been explicitly studied within emergency room settings—in part due to the complexity of studying an active and highly trafficked emergency setting. Leveraging virtual reality will help the team study, and later manipulate, the emergency setting’s environmental factors without disrupting the life-saving activities of a currently operating academic emergency department.
“If you have ever been in a busy ER, or seen one on TV, it’s not surprising people working in them frequently burnout. There can be high stress, chaos, noise, crowded halls, poor lighting and a lack of windows or respite areas. In the current pandemic, the impact of poor ER design is felt even more by frontline workers,” says Dr. J. Matthew Fields, principal physician investigator and associate professor of emergency medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.
“For years, people and hospitals have tried to reduce physician burnout, but no one has really attempted to change the environment itself,” Dr. Fields continues. “That’s why we are teaming up with the UArts’ Center for Immersive Media to explore provider burnout in a completely novel way, through high fidelity virtual modeling of the ER space. The goal will be to pinpoint those areas in the environment that create the most stress and apply design thinking principles to reimagine and redesign them.”
Dr. Fields also notes that this novel and collaborative approach will help pave the way for improving healthcare spaces in ways that will benefit providers, staff and patients.
“This is an exciting collaboration in which we are leveraging VR technology for contributing to the effectiveness and well-being of dedicated healthcare providers whose work routines take place in a chaotic, 24/7 environment,” says Alan Price, director of the Center for Immersive Media at University of the Arts and principal design investigator for the study. “The sensory-rich experience of VR has the ability to elicit increased verbal, physical and emotional response to what physicians actually experience in emergency settings. Our VR simulation will allow doctors to ‘step out’ of the moment, and hopefully provide detail that would otherwise be difficult or impossible in the actual environment.”
The multidisciplinary team also includes architects of KieranTimberlake Architecture and health design psychologists of Thomas Jefferson University.
“Staff burnout is a significant issue across the healthcare system. Design can help mitigate stressful conditions and support staff wellbeing, which is critically important,” said Jason Schroer, AIA, principal and health practice leader at HKS. “We are honored to partner with EMF to research design’s potential to ameliorate caregiver burnout.”
News & Events
Conceived by Carrie Mae Weems and Pierre Loving, Resist Covid Take 6! aims to create an artist-driven public awareness campaign to educate and enlighten Black, Latinx and Native American communities about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.
UArts is the exclusive presenter of Weems’ project in Philadelphia, where billboards, creative messaging and public art has been installed around Center City to highlight the virus’ staggering death toll. Phase 1 of the project at UArts is generously supported by the Jessica Hamilton Hardy Visiting Artist Fund.
The short documentary Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa, co-directed by University of the Arts Film Program Director and Assistant Professor Mike Attie along with Barabara Attie and Janet Goldwater, is included on the shortlist for various upcoming documentary film awards.
The film, which follows the work of the Philadelphia abortion hotline phone counselors, is among 15 others eligible to be nominated for the Best Shorts category for the 36th annual International Documentary Association (IDA) awards. The IDA Documentary Awards ceremony—which will be held virtually in January 2021—is notable for being the “world’s most prestigious event dedicated to the documentary genre, celebrating the best nonfiction films and programs of the year,” according to the IDA website. The site also indicates that the IDA “seeks to represent excellence in the documentary field from around the world, by emerging and established documentarians.” The final list of 10 nominees will be announced on Nov. 24.
Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa was also included on the recently released DOC NYC Short List. The 12 films included will be reviewed by a jury and one will be selected for a Directing Award. In addition, this list serves as the festival’s prediction for what might be shortlisted for the Academy Awards. According to IndieWire, “Historically, most of the DOC NYC short-list titles overlap with the Academy’s official 15-film Oscar Short List.”
In reaction to these announcements, Mike Attie commented, “Of course it's very exciting to be included on these lists. We never really considered the awards potential for Abortion Helpline—it's not what you think about when making a film like this—but clearly it is striking a nerve with audiences and programmers.”
These are just the most recent accolades among many that the project has received since its debut in 2019. Previously, the film was chosen from among 9,000 submissions to be screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; was an official selection of the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival as well as the 2020 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; and won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at the AFI DOCS Film Festival, a major nonfiction film festival in the U.S.
All of this continued momentum serves to support the ultimate goals of the film: to raise awareness about the negative impact of discriminatory policies surrounding abortion—notably, the Hyde Amendment—and highlight the need for reproductive justice.
Kym Moore, an innovative and imaginative leader, theater-maker and scholar who continues to demonstrate the interconnected power of creative disciplines to impact and shape our reality, will join University of the Arts as dean of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts. Moore brings a passion and conviction that inspires joy, unity and drive within the artists, makers and creatives fortunate enough to work with her. Moore’s appointment will begin in January 2021 and concludes a nine-month national search for the future leader of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts, which began in fall 2019.
Currently, Moore serves as full professor and director of undergraduate studies in Brown University’s Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, where she has taught for more than a decade. As an educator, theater-maker and producer, she directs, devises and writes works that utilize the unique materials of theater to examine the multiple dimensions of human existence and seek to cultivate a “culture worth living in.” She is the co-founder/co-artistic director of the Antigravity Performance Project, which was founded in 2012 to challenge the boundaries of theatrical convention and forge new frontiers in performance-making. Moore and her collaborators recently completed their second residency at the Yale Center for Collaborative Arts and Media toward the creation of a transmedia performance installation, Do Eye Know You? which they plan to premiere in Philadelphia next season. As a director and producer, Moore has received numerous awards together with her collaborators, including the Salomon Award (Time’s Up!), the Pen and Brush Playwriting Award (The Date) and two Dorry Awards for Best Direction and Production of a Play (The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry).
“We set out to find a truly imaginative and future-focused leader who gets the relevance of art and creativity today, and how it can change our world,” says UArts President and CEO David Yager. “In Kym we have found that leader, and she also defies the boundaries between disciplines. She understands what creatives bring to our society and knows how we must prepare—the work we must lead—to be relevant and reflective of the world we live in. To say we are pleased to welcome Kym to UArts is a great understatement. I can say with confidence, and together with the Office of the Provost and the entire search committee, from her very first on-campus visit back in March, we all feel as though we are welcoming Kym home.”
“The thought of working collaboratively across disciplines to ‘advance human creativity’ is
beyond my wildest expectations!” says Moore. “Centering the arts as a primary contributor to the development of society has been my mission as an artist and educator from the very start. To find an institution filled with faculty, students, staff and administrators that share the mission is surely a dream come true. I’m thrilled to be coming ‘home’ to a place I didn’t know existed beyond that dream state.”
Throughout her career, Moore has taught acting and directing nationally and internationally at Swarthmore College, Hampshire College, SUNY Purchase, Sarah Lawrence College, Notre Dame University, Indiana State University, the Juilliard School, Carnegie Mellon University, the SIBIU International Theater Festival (Romania), and the Belgrade Theatre (UK), among many other organizations. Her course Acting Outside the Box: Considering Race, Class, Gender & Sexuality in Performance has also been taught nationally and internationally, including at the National Theater Institute/Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, NYU Graduate Acting, University of Oklahoma/Norman, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Columbia University and the Juilliard School. Moore is a graduate of the State University of New York New Paltz (BA) and University of Massachusetts Amherst (MFA). She is an associate member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the National Alliance of Acting Teachers.
Moore will assume leadership of University of the Arts’ theater programs, originally founded by Walter Dallas in 1983 and which became known as the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts in 2009. The school comprises four undergraduate degree programs and two graduate programs in partnership with Pig Iron Theater Company. The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts is one of seven schools at University of the Arts that span art, dance, design, film, music and theater.
Moore will succeed current Dean David Howey, who has announced his retirement after 24 years of outstanding service to University of the Arts as a faculty member, program head and dean. Moore’s appointment concludes a nine-month-long search process, charged by the Office of the Provost and led by a search committee comprising a truly interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff.
The University of the Arts’ Makerspace is a digital and traditional fabrication studio that is a major opportunity for the entire UArts community.
#uartist is a celebration of the boundless creativity of the UArts community. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are welcome to share their work with us via Instagram by including #uartist.
Calendar of Events
See upcoming events in UArts galleries, performance spaces and around campus in Philadelphia.