University of the Arts
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.
Vaccination & Mask Requirements for Students, Faculty & Staff
In support of UArts’ commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the university requires students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19. University of the Arts also requires masks in most indoor settings of all students, staff, faculty, contractors and visitors to our campus.
This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be reasonably accommodated.
Students should plan to be fully vaccinated, with the final dose of the vaccine received at least two weeks prior to their return to campus for the fall semester.
Faculty and staff should plan to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, with the final dose of the vaccine received by Aug. 1.
We encourage all to visit VaccineFinder to help you find clinics, pharmacies and other locations that offer COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. In addition, visit and bookmark this webpage for FAQs, resources, full policy guidance and updates as we move toward the fall semester.
Vaccine Benefits & Rationale
The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination include prevention of serious illness, hospitalization and death from the virus. Broad immunization is critical to help stop the pandemic and protect our community. Benefits specific to the UArts community include:
An expedited return to physical campus spaces and programming
Additional face-to-face course offerings and academic experiences
Opportunities for a wider range of events and activities offered on our campus
Expanded housing and dining options at UArts
Greater interpersonal collaboration among staff, faculty, students and artists
The success of our pandemic response relies on a number of different approaches for combating COVID-19 in addition to our vaccine requirement, including masking, social distancing and de-densification, enhanced cleaning and controlled facilities access, restrictions on visitors and events, and the expectations outlined in the UArts Healthy Promise.
Proof of vaccination will be required for all students planning to attend this fall. Any vaccine authorized for use in the U.S. (currently Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) is acceptable. Some incoming students may be 17 years old and only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine (under current FDA approvals). For faculty, staff and students living abroad, please see the FAQ on vaccines not authorized for use in the U.S.
Students may request an exemption from the vaccination requirement for medical or religious reasons. However, they will not be permitted to access the physical campus while Philadelphia is in the midst of an active COVID-19 outbreak, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). If it aligns with their degree planning, students may enroll in Critical Studies, discipline history or other courses that are only offered remotely. Before doing so, students should speak with their program director and advisor to discuss how this might affect their progress toward degree completion. Students with questions about accommodations relating to a diagnosed medical, physical, psychological, and/or learning disability should contact the Office of Educational Accessibility at email@example.com.
Individuals participating in fully online graduate programs or remote engagement programs, will not need to provide proof of vaccination.
Each of us—all students, faculty and staff—is also required to agree to the UArts Healthy Promise.
President David Yager announced that the university is the recipient of a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capitol Program (RACP) grant from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This crucial funding will enable the university to develop a new Student Center to support UArts’ community of visual and performing artists.
“At University of the Arts, we believe that creativity is the true catalyst for social and economic change and the most essential skill for success in today’s global, technology-driven society,” President Yager said. “Now more than ever, we need to invest heavily in human creativity in order to build a more innovative and adaptable future for the next generation of thinkers, doers and dreamers—and that is just what this grant will allow us to do with the Student Center.
“On behalf of the entire university community, I want to offer my sincere thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf for choosing UArts to receive this very competitive funding, as well as Senator Larry Farnese, Representative Brian Sims and all the members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly who supported this project.”
With more than 65 percent of UArts students currently utilizing Gershman Hall’s classrooms on a weekly basis, the new space will not only act as the heart of student activity on campus, but will also be a vehicle to kindle human creativity and innovation in Philadelphia and beyond. The new center will provide an important gathering and learning space that is currently lacking on UArts’ very urban campus. It will also feature a gallery space, a film screening room and a performance center to showcase works of art by the university’s extremely diverse and talented student body, as well as performing and visual arts talent from around the globe.
“The construction of the new University of the Arts Student Center is a significant win for the entire university community,” said Paul Beideman, president of Avenue of the Arts Inc. “It will create a hub to foster human creativity and artistic growth for University of the Arts students for decades to come. But, importantly, it is also a significant win for the entire Avenue of the Arts and Center City neighborhoods in Philadelphia. It will be an imaginative space to share works by performing and visual artists from beyond university borders and will create a destination for arts and cultural enthusiasts from across the city, the region and the commonwealth. It will add a much-needed boost to our hard-hit restaurant and entertainment industry by patrons who travel to the university to view exhibitions and shows at the Student Center. This project is exactly what we need on South Broad Street at this moment.”
With shovels ready to hit the ground, this project will create dozens of high-quality, good-paying jobs in downtown Philadelphia over the course of the project. Consistent with its ongoing commitment to creating as diverse a student body and facility as possible, the university will ensure that at least 25 percent of those employed on the project are from minority populations and that at least 40 percent of those who are hired throughout the course of this project are based in Pennsylvania.
For naming opportunities, contact Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Andrew Pack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a video released Aug. 31, actor Will Smith surprised recent UArts alum Jabari Banks BFA '20 (Musical Theater) with a life-altering piece of news: Banks would be stepping into Smith's shoes to reprise his iconic role in a dramatic reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The news broke on the YouTube channel for NBC's streaming service, Peacock, where the new series will air, and in trade publications Variety and Deadline.
"From the deepest parts of my heart, I want to say congratulations to you," Smith told Banks in the video. "You have the role of Will on Bel-Air."
Banks' background makes him the perfect fit to play Will, his first TV role. He lives in West Philadelphia, the birthplace of his celebrated character, and is an accomplished rapper, singer, songwriter and basketball player. In high school, Banks said, he encouraged his friends to dress up as cast members from the original show.
"I'm so ready," Banks said during the announcement. "I'm ready to bite down."
The new series, Bel-Air, received a two-season order in September 2020, according to Deadline. It's based on a viral concept trailer created by Morgan Cooper, who has been tapped to write, direct and executive produce the series. Chris Collins of The Man in the High Castle and The Wire fame will be Bel-Air's co-writer. The show is a product of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith's Westbrook Studios and Universal Television. Quincy Jones and the original series' creators, Andy and Susan Borowitz, will also serve as executive producers.
When it debuted in 2019, Cooper's trailer was a stark departure from the original series' comedic tone, hinting at the serious trouble that forced main character Will to relocate to his aunt and uncle's mansion in Bel-Air. It has since racked up nearly 7 million views on YouTube.
Announced as a "dramatic analogue" [sic] to the original sitcom, Bel-Air will fully flesh out Cooper's concept, tracing Will's complex journey to the ritzy, gated California community while exploring the conflicts and emotions surrounding it. The new series' hour-long format promises to deliver a bit more gravitas while maintaining the trademark swagger of the original 148 episodes.
Bel-Air will film in both Philadelphia and California. A release date has not yet been announced, but it is expected to debut in 2022.
News & Events
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.
Following a rigorous selection process earlier this year, UArts Assistant Professor of Studio Practice Tommie-Waheed Evans was named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in choreography. Evans was one of 184 artists, writers, scholars and scientists selected from a pool of more than 3,000 applications. His selection recognizes what the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation notes as exceptional creative ability in the arts.
Evans’ application was focused on Sermon on the Mount, a piece he constructed over a year with his Philadelphia-based dance incubator, waheedworks. Through dance, it explores the intersection of queer, spiritual and welcoming spaces.
The work is not an outright criticism of the church’s rejection of queer themes and homosexuality, Evans says, despite the title’s religious connotations. Instead, he says it asks, “How can we make a space where everyone is welcome and can feel the positivity and light that happens inside a church without it being church?” Sermon on the Mount also reflects Evans’ studio practice at University of the Arts, where he encourages students to feel liberated and safe in who they are.
Evans discovered dance at a young age while growing up amid racial strife, earthquakes and gang violence in Los Angeles. Evans’ mother had previously enrolled him in music and singing lessons, but when he attended a friend’s dance recital at age 13, the artform resonated with him deeply.
“At the end of the day, dance chose me,” Evans said. “I tell the students, ‘If I didn’t have dance, I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing during this time, this pandemic.’ It is the practice inside of dance, even though it’s on Zoom, that I’m able to see a future and to mentally be okay.”
Inspired by his friend’s performance, Evans enrolled in a family-run dance studio that offered ballet, jazz and tap lessons. A few years later, at age 18, Evans joined several classmates as they auditioned for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center’s summer program in New York. Despite his admitted ambivalence toward auditioning, he was the only dancer in his peer group to receive a scholarship to train with the internationally known and historic Black dance company.
Evans’ interest in choreography was kindled in high school, as he worked on a piece under the guidance of his mentor and teacher, Karen McDonald, who now serves as academy director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles. His infatuation grew when he came to Philadelphia and engaged with Philadanco, when the company’s founder and former director, Joan Myers Brown, encouraged Evans to continue exploring his voice and vision.
When Evans left Philadanco in 2014 and began teaching at UArts, he was dealing with arthritis in his hips that required surgery. Donna Faye Burchfield, dean of the School of Dance at UArts, took him under her wing and supported him during that time.
“I just felt like I was in this space all alone, and she saw me and was like, ‘Come, sit at my table and let’s talk,’” Evans said.
Burchfield presented Evans with new resources and artists, took him to performances and introduced him to new people. Those experiences and connections, Evans says, convinced him to sit down and pen an application for a Guggenheim Fellowship. He credits his selection this year to the support he’s experienced throughout his artistic journey, from his family in Los Angeles to his colleagues in Philadelphia.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never felt,” Evans says of his fellowship. “Like, anticipation for what’s to come. It’s validating. But it’s a moment when I’ve been able to really see the people who have helped me get here and feel their excitement.”
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.
Laurie Wagman Recording Studios
The newly opened facilities are dedicated to exploring all facets of music production including composition, sound design, digital and analog recording, mixing and mastering.
UArts is reimagining the arts university experience. In addition to the distinct opportunity to study outside your major and in Philadelphia’s vibrant cultural center, we’re breaking new ground for creative exploration, expression and learning, year after year.
#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.