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 fall. Over the past two weeks, our world has continued to change as the virus proceeds to wreak havoc across the country and the globe. Cases in the U.S. have continued to rise. State and local guidance has changed. Personal and collective responsibility at every level continues to be debated. We too have continually evaluated and re-evaluated our position as an arts university in the heart of a major city, and the role we will play in the pandemic.
Though we just released the details of our Fall 2020 Opening Plan on July 13, it has become clear 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, University of the Arts will begin the 2020-2021 academic year with a fully remote fall semester, with all courses beginning Monday, Aug. 31. This decision has been made by the University’s President’s Council (senior staff and academic deans), together with overwhelming support from faculty and the unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees.
This decision has not been made lightly. As a community of creatives, our modes of practice draw us toward one another and toward our studios, rehearsal spaces and stages. We know our entire community wants nothing more than to return to campus. Indeed, faculty and staff have spent hundreds of hours over the past months researching, planning and debating how to inhabit our physical campus safely in light of the continued rise in viral cases throughout the nation, and how we might manage the limits utilizing social distancing, mask wearing and capacity maximums. Yet the continued changes to official guidance and the uncertainties regarding the timing of an effective treatment or vaccine presented our community with risks we are unwilling to take with the lives of our students, faculty and staff.
We also know that we cannot wait for the decisions and policies of our governing agencies. We know the nuances of our creative work and of embodied practices—how we sing, perform, dance, dream, design and make. And we understand how our practices may be uniquely compromised and/or made unsafe by the circumstances COVID has created—both in person and in a remote fashion. Earlier this week, I met with the faculty from each school. We shared in the recognition that current circumstances leave us with no perfect choices. Each scenario presents its own combination of both health and financial risks. In turn, each school held their own faculty meetings to discuss the options presented to us as an institution and report their collective sentiment or vote back to their respective dean. The overwhelming majority of our faculty recognized that proceeding with our Fall 2020 Opening Plan presented grave risks to the physical wellbeing of our community and voted for a fully remote fall semester, which in turn was fully supported by all members of President’s Council.
As an institution, we recognize this choice may have serious financial implications, but above all, we as a community must 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 fall 2020, we will move forward as a creative community bound not by a physical campus, but by a shared value. We understand that with this change many questions arise. With that in mind, the following actions will be implemented for the fall semester.
Academic Calendar Adjustments
In light of a fully remote semester, we will revert back to our original academic calendar. All courses will begin on Monday, Aug. 31. New Student Orientation will begin the week of Aug. 24. The semester will conclude on Dec. 18. Thanksgiving break will be observed Wednesday, Nov. 25 – Friday, Nov. 27.
Advising & Registration
Detailed information concerning advising and registration will soon be sent by the Office of the Registrar. New registration for the fall semester is currently closed, but will reopen after fall course sections have been updated to reflect the transition to remote delivery. Registration appointment times will be assigned to support registration priority based on major and class level. Incoming students will be contacted by the advising center to schedule one-on-one advising meetings. Returning students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their advisor, who will work with students to ensure they maintain degree progress and can help finalize their fall schedule.
We acknowledge the financial strain that the global pandemic has placed on our students and their families. Though the University’s cost of instruction and operations will not decline and our revenue will decrease, the Board of Trustees has unanimously voted to reverse the previously approved tuition increase and freeze tuition at the 2019–2020 level for the fall semester. This will result in a tuition reduction for all students. All student accounts will be reviewed and students will receive an adjusted billing statement by Friday, July 31. In light of the new changes for the fall semester, the deadline for billing will be extended until Monday, Aug. 10. Any student who has already paid their bill will receive a credit which may be requested as a refund if no outstanding balances are due.
Residential Students & Meal Plans
In efforts to reduce the spread of COVID, University housing will remain closed for the fall semester. No students will be permitted to reside on campus. Any student who has already paid for housing for the fall semester will be issued a full refund. As campus will be closed to all students for the fall semester, dining facilities will not be in service. Any student who has paid for a meal plan for the fall semester will receive a refund.
In addition, you may be wondering how this change will impact your experience within each school. Below we have provided links to pages that include letters from each school. More detailed program information will be added next week from the directors of specific programs.
Looking ahead, please know our planning continues. Updates will be made frequently and we encourage all students, faculty and staff to check their emails regularly as well as bookmark uarts.edu/fall2020. Families are encouraged to register for the Generations newsletter to receive public updates.
University of the Arts and Thomas Jefferson University announced on July 16, 2020, that they will be partnering on new course offerings for undergraduate students this fall. Leadership at both institutions came to an agreement, in order to further their creativity-focused curricula, that undergraduate students from either university will be able to take select courses at the other institution at no additional cost.
In a post-pandemic world, I believe that creativity will be the most essential skill our students need for success and that life as we know it will be shaped and defined by it.
-UArts President and CEO David Yager
Throughout its more than 140-year history, UArts has educated generations of groundbreaking artists, performers, designers and creative leaders; in 2018, it became the first university in the U.S. to offer a PhD in Creativity. Just this year, Jefferson announced a creativity core curriculum for undergraduates, teaching the human skills of empathy, creativity, design thinking and compassion.
“In a post-pandemic world, I believe that creativity will be the most essential skill our students need for success and that life as we know it will be shaped and defined by it,” said David Yager, President and CEO of University of the Arts. “Those who employ it will challenge entrenched assumptions and conventions, seek and establish the meaning of chaos, loss and tragedy—of which our times have delivered more than their share—and demonstrate the resilience gained through the trait which makes us human: creativity. We could not be more pleased to expand our partnership with Jefferson in meaningful ways that demonstrate the relevance creativity holds for all disciplines.”
“In University of the Arts, we have an academic partner aligned with our belief that cultivating creativity in students is vital to impactful 21st century education,” said Mark L. Tykocinski, MD, executive vice president of academic affairs and provost of Thomas Jefferson University.
This is not the first or only collaboration between the two institutions. Jefferson has agreed to serve as an advisor to UArts on health protocols related to a safe reopening of the Center City Philadelphia campus, in addition to a longstanding partnership with Jefferson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine for primary care services for UArts students.
“This partnership will not only allow for unique curricular experiences for our students, but will accelerate the ways in which our communities are able to share knowledge and ideas for future collaborations,” said Carol Graney, vice president for academic affairs at UArts.
UArts and Jefferson hope that this partnership will also foster a deeper level of collaboration among faculty members. The institutions recently collaborated on a joint research proposal for the use of virtual reality modeling to identify and improve design flaws associated with physician burnout in academic Emergency Department settings, based in Jefferson’s Emergency Medicine department and Health Design Lab, and leveraging UArts’ new Center for Immersive Media.
“I believe that once we take down the walls between our institutions, our students and faculty will find a hundred new ways to collaborate,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. “The future of higher education, and indeed of professional work, depends on the freedom to work across traditional disciplines, indeed to redefine what's possible.”
The expansion of these unique collaborations is bringing transdisciplinary study to the forefront in Philadelphia. Exploring the intersections among art, science and the human experience will not only benefit student artists and students of medicine and science, but also the communities which they serve.
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.
News & Events
The UArts Commencement ceremony has never followed convention, and this year was no exception. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 celebrated their incredible accomplishments together, apart. On May 16, the community gathered online to experience its first-ever live streamed virtual Commencement ceremony, which was viewed 8,500 times that day. Here are some of the highlights.
Piano grad Nicholas “NGXB” Blum opened the ceremony, performing “Pomp and Circumstance” from his home. President David Yager then led the rest of the ceremony from the university’s Center for Immersive Media. School of Music faculty gave a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful,” performed entirely via Zoom. Jeff Lutsky, chairman of the Board of Trustees, offered his well wishes to the Class of 2020, followed by valedictory speaker La’Needra “Lulu” Cornelious BFA ’20 (Acting). “The heart and passion that bleeds into our art, music, choreography, films, designs and theater arts,” said Cornelious, “that’s what’s bringing joy into this world now.”
Yager then presented the President’s Award for Cross-Disciplinary Excellence to Kibria Chavez BFA ’20 (Graphic Design); the President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the University to Allison Santos Lezama BM ’20 (Vocal Performance); the President’s Award for Excellence in Creative Practice to Ajia Wilmore BFA ’20 (Dance); the President’s Award for Critical Inquiry to Renee Hoffman MA ’20 (Museum Studies); and the President’s Award for Innovation to Elizabeth Reed BFA ’20 (Craft and Material Studies).
Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Graney presented the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award to Professor Nancy Heller and the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award to Professor Ralph Giguere. Producer and musician Adam Blackstone ’04 (Instrumental Performance) addressed the Class of 2020 on behalf of the Alumni Association, followed by the presentation of the Silver Star Alumni Awards to David Ewing BFA ’68 (Film) and Libby Newman ’80 (Printmaking) for their incredible contributions to the creative community. President Yager presented two honorary doctorate degrees: to Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a world-renowned, Nigerian-born visual artist; and Phong Bui BFA ’85 (Illustration)—artist, writer, independent curator, and co-founder and artistic director of The Brooklyn Rail.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the celebration, many UArts traditions were still upheld, including the highlight of the ceremony—a student performance of “With a Little Help From My Friends” via Zoom. Music students have said they looked forward to auditioning and performing the song since freshman year.
Instead of walking across the stage of the Merriam Theater to receive their diploma, graduates were able to submit a seven-second “name reading” video. Needless to say, there were some very creative submissions: backwards rollerblading, Tik Tok acapella, short animations and too many pet cameos to count! After each dean conferred the degrees to their respective schools, over 200 graduates participated in a virtual tassel turn, symbolizing the end of their undergraduate careers, the beginning of their professional careers and their connection as the Class of 2020.
In addition to the live stream ceremony, graduates and families were able to connect through the 2020 virtual commencement website, which experienced over 6,000 sessions during the course of the day and will remain live for one year. Each graduate was able to curate a Commencement profile by submitting a profile picture, a resume, an artist statement, samples of their work, school memories, and links to social media accounts and professional websites. The website also featured a curated section of student work and a community section with a live social media feed and message board. Throughout the day, the community watched as the love flooded in from family and friends and classmates, who sent over 700 congratulatory messages.
“In this time of disappointment, I find solace in the work that we are doing as a community and collectively as a school,” said Cornelious. “A lot of people can not enjoy this moment due to financial issues, family problems at home and literally, the loss of life. So for them, we celebrate today, no matter how it’s given.”
The Class of 2020 and its celebration will be one to remember for many years to come. To experience Commencement 2020, visit commencement.uarts.edu.
On Wednesday evening, Nov. 20, UArts faculty, staff, students, administrators and honored guests gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Center for Immersive Media (CIM) in Juniper Hall. The opening of this state-of-the-art facility marks the culmination of a year-long renovation project, announced in summer 2018.
The grand opening celebration included remarks from UArts President and CEO David Yager and CIM Director Alan Price, as well as live, hands-on demonstrations of VR, motion capture and various immersive sensory experiences. Remarks were followed by a ribbon-cutting and exclusive preview performance of “Infinitely Yours” by Miwa Matreyek, the center’s first fellow. She will join University of the Arts in the spring 2020 semester, leading a course in CIM that will focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, called Projection, Body and Storytelling.
Adjunct assistant professor, master sound engineer and CIM’s first faculty grantee, JohnPaul Beattie BA ’10 (Composition), will also lead a course in CIM in spring 2020, titled Spatial Audio Composition. Beattie has received a microgrant to pursue research that will synchronize spatial audio with immersive lighting design and explore the interconnectedness of our eyes and ears.
We believe artists and creatives are uniquely positioned to help us understand the enormous impact technology is having on our lives. -President Yager
CIM at University of the Arts is a place where students and faculty can explore the opportunities and implications of what it means to be immersed in data, simulations, stories, performances and digital communities. The 5,600-square-foot facility is dedicated to exploring the fields of virtual and mixed reality, performance motion-capture, and human-computer interaction through collaboration across visual and performing arts disciplines.
“CIM demonstrates our commitment to advancing human creativity in a changing world,” Yager says. “We believe artists and creatives are uniquely positioned to help us understand the enormous impact technology is having on our lives, and the center will afford a fantastic opportunity for experimentation and exploration at the intersection of the arts, design, science and medicine.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, it was announced that Film Program Director and Assistant Professor Mike Attie’s short documentary Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa has been selected for inclusion in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Attie’s film was chosen from over 10,000 submissions and will screen in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Mountain Resort from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2, 2020.
“I was quite surprised by the news, as we really just submitted on a lark,” says Attie, who co-directed the piece with filmmakers Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater. The film screened at the Guttmacher Institute in New York and was an official selection of the Philadelphia Film Festival in October, as well as being included in DOC NYC’s Shorts: Ways of Seeing in November.
Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa follows the work of the Philadelphia abortion hotline phone counselors—all called Lisa—who arrive each morning to seemingly endless calls from people who are seeking to terminate pregnancies and can’t afford to. Counselors struggle to stretch available funds, raised from private donations, often having to work with a dangerous matter of timing. Attie’s film aims to give a voice to women and teens impacted by economic stigma and discrimatory policies like the Hyde Amendment, enacted in 1976 with the adverse effect of denying poor individuals access to abortion.
“Independent artists create and enrich global culture. This year’s festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds and societies,” said Sundance Institute’s president and founder Robert Redford in the festival’s Dec. 4 feature film announcement.
The festival—Sundance Institute’s flagship public program—is widely regarded as the largest independent film festival in the U.S., attracting over 120,000 attendees and 1,300 accredited members of the press. Attie will be attending the festival’s annual director orientation and celebration in New York with UArts grad Caitlin Riggsbee BFA ’17 (Film & Video).
“There was a lot of UArts in this piece,” says Attie. Two of his former students, Riggsbee and Courtney Kehr BFA ’19 (Film & Video), worked as sound recordists, and a future part-time faculty member will be doing the score and mixing sound. Attie hopes to continue these collaborative partnerships for the film, hinting at a possible collaboration with UArts’ Graphic Design department on poster design.
He added, “My hope is that this is just the beginning of the life cycle of this film!”
*Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
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.