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Chair Letter to Art Students

March 16, 2020

Dear Art Students,

I have been thinking of you this weekend. I want to share my thoughts and feelings regarding recent events with you.

First of all, this is the first time we've canceled Open Studios since I came to UCSC, twenty-six years ago. Please know that I am aware that you were working on your final projects. I know how it feels to learn that all of your hard work will not be viewed by your classmates, family, friends, and the public. When the Arts Division canceled Open Studios, I felt your energy and excitement ebb, as the prospect of Open Studios receded into the future. In the woodshop, I saw your eyes turn to the ground, I saw your shoulders droop, and I saw you put your tools to rest beside marvelous projects that were almost ready to show. Like you, I am making peace with my own sadness and disappointment about the cancelation of Open Studios this quarter. I apologize to you for this lost opportunity.

Secondly, I know that this winter quarter's graduate student strike affected you, no matter which side you were on. As the strike disrupted classes, it also provided a learning opportunity. The entire UCSC community learned about the high cost of living in Santa Cruz, the UC administration made offers to alleviate this burden, and the graduate students reiterated their position. The strike is not over, though it has been moved from center stage with the arrival of the coronavirus/COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus has radically disrupted campus life. I hope you all have safe, secure places to stay, enough money to live on, and access to food and health services during the next weeks and months. I hope you all have plans and provisions for a possible quarantine. I look forward to working with you all next quarter as we move to online courses. We are working to reimagine and implement online course work that is consistent with the high quality and standards of our department and university. You should expect some exciting innovations and logistical challenges next quarter, especially for students taking studio courses in the visual and performing arts.

In the meantime, UCSC has developed coronavirus guidelines that you can access here:

The events of this quarter are unprecedented and require us all to work together to meet the challenges they bring. The future may seem unclear. Yet, I can say, with complete confidence, that the UCSC Art Department has had one of the best arts faculty, and some of the most promising art students, in the world. As your faculty, we are all dedicated to teaching you by whatever methods and tools become necessary as we shift to online coursework. Teaching you, to our full abilities, is our pledged goal. We have devoted our lives to education and dedicate our time, imagination, and skills to make a successful and invigorating transfer from the classroom or studio to computer interfaces and websites. We will communicate with you soon, on a one-to one basis as we stabilize our plans for the coming quarter and learn more about our evolving situation.

The Art Department wants to keep you safe from this virus. As we get verified information about COVID-19 testing, and health services, we will post it. Now, there are a lot of unanswered questions. The answers are coming. Please know that we are figuring out how best to respond to this health risk, quickly and carefully. In the meanwhile, try to rest and stay healthy.

What I do know from my own experience is that adversity, disappointments, and other challenges, can inspire us as artists. Engaging in current events with creativity is good for our souls, for our art practices, and for society as a whole. Be sure - we are facing real suffering, radical life disruption, and ongoing hardship. When we work together, for each other, and for our futures, we become able to meet our challenges in ways that are stronger, wiser, more imaginative, and creative than before. Health experts have called for social distancing. By moving apart, temporarily, for the good of all, we will lay the foundations for a future that will bring people closer together. I also envision a future of environmental justice in which everyone has the same access to clean air, water, and soil. With access to these, we will grow food that will nourish us all. While this moment is scary and challenging for us, we will shape our future together through imagination, creativity, community, and art.

While not all of you know me personally, I know who you are and that you are part of the Art Department. I want to thank all of our staff who work so hard to bring our work to fruition. Thanks to Bridget Henry of the printshop for coming up with the idea to do an online Open Studios. Thanks to Jason Greenberg for collecting everyone's images and putting them on the Art Department's Facebook page.

We, in the Art Department, support your college education, your participation in the UCSC arts community, and your ability to produce outstanding work. If there is anything that I, as the Chair of the Art Department, can do for you, I will try my best.

Could you keep us posted on how you are doing? We proud of you for being artists, makers, and creators, especially at this critical moment in history. We're all together in this, and together we will create a better future.

Thank you,

Beth Stephens

Chair of the Art Department

Mon, Mar 16, 2020