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.
To our students, faculty, staff and community members,
I write to you all again with another important update for how University of the Arts is responding to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. We are amidst a global crisis that continues to impact our lives in unprecedented ways. Last night, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf strengthened his order for all non-life-sustaining businesses in the state to close their physical locations. In compliance with this new order from the governor, University of the Arts will implement a stricter enforcement around the University’s remote operations guidelines.
To continue to protect the safety and health of both the university and larger community, we will take the following actions:
- All in-person class meetings at University of the Arts will be suspended for the spring semester and replaced by alternate modes of remote learning. Faculty and students should plan to complete and assess all assignments, projects, final showings and work of any description through online, virtual and/or alternate remote modes of learning and evaluation. Faculty will continue to communicate with their students how course schedules, assignments and expectations will change for the remainder of the semester. Please carefully monitor your UArts email to stay informed of course expectations.
- All in-person campus events and programs will be suspended through the end of the semester. In light of the recent CDC guidance to reduce community spread of the novel coronavirus, all in-person UArts events and programs will be postponed, canceled or moved to a virtual format. This includes Commencement. Planning for how we will hold commencement is now underway, and will be shared at a later date.
- Effective Immediately, all residence halls will close for the remainder of the spring semester, remaining available only to those residents from Level 2 and 3 countries and those with housing insecurities who truly have no alternative. Residential students who are currently out of town should not return to campus for the spring semester. When it is safe and feasible to do so, we will announce plans for residential students to return to collect their belongings. Residents’ belongings will be stored in their room, just as they are during the five week Winter Break session. A separate email will be sent to all residential students with information shortly. Any residential student facing extraordinary hardship who absolutely cannot return home will be supported. Please contact email@example.com.
- Campus-wide remote working remains in effect until further notice. We are currently requiring that University faculty and staff – whose positions enable them to do so and who have the approval of their supervisors – work remotely so we can do our part to optimize social distancing recommendations. We will continue to monitor the situation and update this time frame accordingly to the guidance of the CDC, local government and public health organizations.
- All university buildings will be closed to students and non-essential faculty and staff until further notice. As such, only staff specifically designated by a vice president will continue to have any on-campus presence.
Please know these decisions have not been made lightly. We recognize that extending alternate modes of instruction for the spring semester comes with realities of canceled events, showings, performances and informal gatherings, meet-ups, and café conversations that are heartbreaking for all of us, but none more so than our students. While we work together to establish the magic of the UArts community in alternate modes of engagement, we too mourn the loss of what must be suspended for the semester.
Despite the uncertainty of our times, I am overwhelmed by the ethic of care I have witnessed from our community. Faculty and staff continue to work tirelessly to prepare and support our students through this time. And our students and families are radically shifting their learning and residential environments with grace and understanding. I could not be more proud of how we as a community are responding to the challenges, and know that our actions will help the collective efforts across the globe to “flatten the curve” and preserve life.
As we look ahead, I return to my prior invitation:
How can you, a community of creatives, establish a virtual environment like no other? What opportunities exist online and through alternate modes of engagement – including the analog - that may not have existed in your classroom? Rather than seeing the limits of what we cannot do, I challenge you – what are the possibilities that we haven’t even considered yet? And what can you do from where you sit as a student, faculty or staff member, to engage as a member of our community and help others to thrive during this time?
I remain confident that with our collective efforts, we will emerge from this and our community will be stronger than before.
A reminder to please bookmark and return to the website we have established, uarts.edu/covid19, for important resources and FAQs. We are continually updating this website throughout the outbreak.
To each of you, and your families – please adhere to the social distancing and health practices that the government is requiring of us. Stay safe, and stay healthy, and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus as soon as we are able.
President & CEO
The UArts Cares Fund was established to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our student community have access to nutrition, housing, transportation and the supplies necessary to succeed at UArts.
UArts Cares has worked with partners across campus to open a food pantry and provide grocery store gift cards, provide SEPTA passes, offer academic and art supplies, and give emergency monetary grants and housing assistance.
Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are facing immediate hardship, including housing insecurity, food insecurity and/or a significant loss of income that could impact their ability to successfully complete the spring 2020 semester.
In response to immediate student need, the UArts Cares Fund has expanded its mission to include those hit the hardest by COVID-19. To support our most vulnerable students, the University is expanding the UArts Cares Fund to include newly created scholarships, work-study replacement funding, and specific impact grants to both current and incoming students. Any UArts student facing hardship can apply for support through an online application.
I would be overwhelmed without this support. I am extremely grateful for all the assistance that UArts Cares has provided me. Thank you so very much!
-Anonymous Illustration Student
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.
News & Events
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
BEIJING – On Friday, August 30, 2019 the Special Exhibition of the United States at the 8th Beijing International Art Biennale officially opened at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, curated by University of the Arts.
UArts President and CEO David Yager and Vice President Rick Longo served as curators for the special exhibition, the sole representative of the United States at the major international art event.
Hundreds gathered for the private opening of the Biennale, and and more than a million visitors were expected to attend over the event's 20-day run.
“It is a great honor for the University of the Arts to be selected to curate the United States pavilion at this global art exhibition,” said Yager. “It’s also an exceptional opportunity to showcase the extraordinary artist/educators from the University of the Arts, and the university’s history of developing creative leaders for over a century.”
President Yager was interviewed on several national television networks in China, including Beijing TV and China Central TV (CCTV), which together reach more than 500 million viewers across China.
Since its inception in 2002, the Beijing International Art Biennale has featured more than 4,000 artists from over 100 countries.
The American Special Exhibition showcased UArts’ 142-year legacy of arts leadership and spotlighted the University’s mission of advancing human creativity. Twenty-one artworks by 10 teaching artists and alumni of the University were presented. The artworks spoke to the unique culture of creativity education that the University instills in its students. Teaching artists and alumni included:
- Mark Campbell ‘74
- Daniel Clayman
- Matt Curtius and Gina Triplett
- Shawn Faust ‘18
- Laura Frazure ‘86
- Michael Grothusen
- Mi-Kyoung Lee ‘96
- Alan Price
- Rebecca Sack
- Loveis Wise ‘18
Watch President Yager's interview with Beijing TV here.
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.