Ten UCLA faculty-led projects — addressing themes of identity, justice and domesticity, among others — have received grants from the Chancellor’s Arts Initiative. The program is administered by the Chancellor’s Council on the Arts and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities.

For 2022, the program awarded a total of $139,380 to faculty in fields from architecture and urban design to African American studies, and from gender studies to music. Grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 per project.  

“We are proud once again to help seed projects that bring creative research and practice together in order to inspire thoughtful responses to the most challenging issues of our times,” said Roger Wakimoto, UCLA’s vice chancellor for research and creative activities.

The Chancellor’s Council on the Arts was established in 2020 to connect and mobilize UCLA’s diverse creative communities, spanning a wide range of disciplines across the campus. The campus established the Arts Initiative in 2006 to foster the advancement of the arts and arts-related scholarship. To date, the program has supported more than 100 projects across the arts and humanities. 

The 2022 grant recipients are:

H. Samy Alim, Tabia Shawel and Samuel Lamontagne, Bunche Center
“California Love”: Exploring the Evolving West Coast Hip Hop Cultural Landscape

Through a series of workshops with UCLA students and scholars, this project will support the creation of a public event series, The Hip Hop California Forum, which will be held both at UCLA and in the Black arts community of Leimert Park, as well as the publication of a volume on the impact of West Coast hip hop artists on global culture. Project leaders intend to build a network of emerging and established hip hop scholars, offering opportunities for manuscript workshops and oral presentations. The work is part of the UCLA Hip Hop Initiative in the Bunche Center.

Tria Blu Wakpa, World Arts and Cultures/Dance
Precious & Sacred: Challenging Native American Confinement with a Community-Engaged Exhibition & Culturally-Relevant Children’s Book

This project will develop a community-engaged arts exhibition in collaboration with Lakota artists to “decolonize” images of Lakota children taken by Indian boarding school officials. Artists and researchers will tackle the dilemma of reproducing archival images of children who were forced to leave their families and live in assimilation schools, a widespread practice in late 19th and early 20th century America. The work will also encompass broader instances of the confinement of Native Americans, which is a central strategy of U.S. settler colonialism. Collaborating with currently incarcerated Lakota people, Wakpa plans to produce a culturally relevant book for Native children who have parents who are imprisoned. “This book will counter the logics of Native confinement, reminding Native children that they are precious, sacred and loved by their parent who is incarcerated,” Wakpa said.

Gloria Cheng and Arturo O’Farrill, Herb Alpert School of Music
Root Progressions: Classical and Jazz Encounters at the Herb Alpert School of Music and Beyond

Two luminaries in composition and performance, classical pianist Cheng and Afro jazz pianist O’Farrell seek to bring together historically divided classical and jazz communities at UCLA. The project will unite six acclaimed composer-improviser-performers from the jazz tradition with a classical pianist to prepare six new commissioned works. Artists-in-residence will mentor students performing with those of different specialties and skills, many for the first time. They will inspire through their music, their traversal of the classical-jazz divide, and their life stories and experiences in overcoming racism, sexism and discrimination. The commissioned works will be presented at a public concert in spring 2023, recorded and published by the UCLA Library Contemporary Music Score Collection.

Joshua Guzman, gender studies
Association for the Study of the Arts Conference No. 13

With support from this grant, UCLA will host the 13th convening of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. The conference will feature a renowned queer artist of color as keynote speaker, and it will promote the work of UCLA arts faculty and M.F.A. students to scholars from around the world, all converging at UCLA with the aim of facilitating scholarly excellence in the study of the contemporary arts. In conjunction, there will be several evenings of arts programming around the city featuring local artists in order to strengthen the connection between the campus and Los Angeles artistic communities.

Jocelyn Ho, Herb Alpert School of Music
Women’s Labor: Rheostat Rotary Rack and Housework Commons

Winner of the 2021 International Alliance of Women in Music’s Ruth Anderson Prize, Women’s Labor is a feminist-activist project that repurposes domestic tools to become new musical instruments that are explored through interactive installations, commissioned compositions and performances. Traditionally relegated to the private sphere, this project interrogates domesticity through public engagement and performative spectacle. The new instruments are based on laundering tools that highlight gender performativity through clothing. Rheostat Rotary Rack is based on a mid-20th century umbrella-style rotary dryer, performed by hanging clothing on its strings, rotating it by hand. It can spin autonomously in the wind. The weight of the clothing will control the volume and the rack’s rotation creates a whir, the movements being detected by a potentiometer.

Gustavo Leclerc, architecture and urban design
Making Home: Stories of Immigrant Indigenous People in Westlake

The project will collaborate with two community-based organizations — Heart of Los Angeles in the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood and Self-Help Graphics and Art in Boyle Heights —and 10 indigenous immigrant families in Westlake, giving expression to their presence in Westlake through a collection of digital stories and visual/graphic narratives. Westlake is one of the most complex neighborhoods in Los Angeles and it is home to a large immigrant population, primarily from Mexico and Central America. Many immigrants from these places are indigenous, such as Zapotec and Mixtec from Oaxaca, Nahua from Puebla, and Maya and Quiché from Chiapas and Guatemala, but all are largely rendered invisible in public spaces, public art and political representation.

Lauren Lee McCarthy, Design Media Arts
I’m Glad You Asked: An Augmented Reality Artwork to Surface AAPI Experiences

This augmented-reality artwork reflects on Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences during the pandemic. Various sites will be installed throughout Chinatown in Los Angeles and San Francisco, augmenting the social landscape of the area. Specific areas will be virtually labeled with phrases such as “These seats are reserved for people that are feeling overwhelmed” or “This bench is reserved for people that have family many hours away.” Visitors that identify with the statements may sit, inevitably mixing with other visitors. In the process of determining the other’s reasons for being there, spontaneous conversations may arise. The artwork will be developed through interviews and research with members of the two cities’ Asian American Pacific Islander communities.

Rebeca Mendez, Design Media Arts
The Sea Around Us

A video art installation commissioned by the Laguna Art Museum for the 2022 Art & Nature Festival, “The Sea Around Us” portrays the ocean as a fully animated body as well as a place of deep interconnectedness, multispecies kinship and fraternal coalescence, ultimately aiming to overwhelm a fear of impending doom with a sense of awe that will fuel the courage to face humankind’s legacy, take restorative action and not repeat its folly. The piece directly references Rachel Carson’s book of the same title. The work is conceived as a spatial, immersive, cinematic experience with a focus on expressing the complex reality of life in the eastern Pacific Ocean, bringing Indigenous voices to the forefront. “The Sea Around Us” contends with past environmental wrongdoing in the Southern California Bight, which stretches from Point Conception to Punta Colonet, and incorporates footage shot by robots sampling disintegrating DDT barrels on the ocean floor.

Javier Patiño Loira, Spanish and Portuguese
Wild Women on Stage: Gender in Comedia Adaptation

Part of the LA Escena Festival of Hispanic Classical Theater in 2022 and produced by UCLA’s Diversifying the Classics initiative, where it will premiere, this innovative performance piece incorporates cutting-edge scholarship and creates opportunities for public outreach to Los Angeles’s diverse communities. Diversifying the Classics seeks to promote awareness of the comedia (a three-act play combining drama and comedy in the tradition of the Spanish Golden Age) and illustrate the importance of including Hispanic cultural heritage in the theatrical canon. The project includes two performances of Lope de Vega’s “El animal de Hungría (The Beast of Hungary),” a play about two women driven to live in the wilderness, which radically deconstructs gendered socialization while centering female sexuality and desire. Putting into conversation an innovative production of “Animal” in the original Spanish by Colectivo Állatok and a newly commissioned contemporary English-language adaptation by Amanda L. Andrei, “Wild Women On Stage” will provide a platform for diverse community voices, creating a dialogue across centuries, cultures and languages.

Amy Landau, Edina Lekovic and Asma Sayeed, Fowler Museum and Near Eastern languages and cultures
Vital Matters: Visual and Sonic Landscapes of Muslim Los Angeles

This initiative consists of a timely and thought-provoking exhibition project led by Landau and an oral histories and teaching initiative led by Sayeed and Lekovic. It centers Muslim artists, faith-based leaders and other community organizers that shed light not only on material and spiritual histories but also on vital matters of today — education, justice and the environment. A digital archive will serve as an educational resource for teaching about the lived experiences of Muslims in Los Angeles through the arts and will ultimately inform a pioneering exhibition at the Fowler.