The Chancellor’s Council on the Arts and the Office for Research and Creative Activities are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 Chancellor’s Arts Initiative. The grant awards support projects from 12 UCLA faculty members, which range in scope from an exhibition spotlighting Black music in Los Angeles to an archive that expands documentation of underrepresented voices of American Indian activism.

A total of $150,000 in funding was awarded to faculty in the departments of architecture and urban design; English, Spanish and Portuguese; ethnomusicology; film, television and digital media; gender studies; music; sociology and African American studies; theater; UCLA Library; urban planning; and world arts and cultures/dance. After receiving a significant response and based on the strength of the submissions, the Office for Research and Creative Activities increased the funding from $100,000 to $150,000.

The projects will advance arts-related research that is timely, relevant, excellent, original and increases public awareness of the arts at UCLA. Priority was given to projects that contribute to UCLA’s larger commitments to sustainability, anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion.

“The arts are central to the UCLA experience, as a leading public university in a global center of culture and creative industry,” said Roger Wakimoto, vice chancellor for research and creative activities. “I’m proud to support and promote creative research through these dozen projects, which will deepen our understanding of our region and our humanity.”

To increase collaboration and coordination of arts activities and programming at UCLA, the council brings together leaders from across the three professional arts schools (UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; and UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture); three public-facing arts organizations (the Fowler and Hammer museums and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance); the UCLA Film & Television Archive, a division of UCLA Library; and the UCLA College Humanities Division. The council also works to ensure that diverse voices comprising the arts across campus are represented, expanding its membership to include: Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences; May Hong HaDuong, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive; Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement; and David Yoo, professor of Asian American studies and history and vice provost of the Institute of American Cultures.

“These research grants recognize the arts as essential to our lives. The arts encourage innovation and creativity, and serve as cultural inspiration for our region,” said Eileen Strempel, inaugural dean of the school of music and chair of the Chancellor’s Council on the Arts. “They also create connections, build empathy and understanding, and connect us across fields of study, cultures and attitudes.”

The council is also announcing the launch of GO ARTS UCLA, an online platform that details the role of the arts at UCLA and within Los Angeles’ cultural ecosystem. The site brings together a full array of UCLA arts and humanities events and content in one central location. The site offers a full calendar of events, recent feature stories and the latest news about arts-related research at UCLA.

The recipients of the 2021 Chancellor’s Arts Initiative include:

Hitoshi Abe and Jeffrey Inaba, architecture and urban design — “L.A. Is Burning”
The goal of this project is to share research of pre-fire prevention and post-fire recovery planning to the diverse communities of Los Angeles affected by wildfires. Organizers are developing urban design scenarios guided by the idea of “regenerative urbanism” — the belief that cities can be more sustainable, culturally dynamic and equitable, in addition to being resilient to environmental threats such as fire. The project will produce a visually compelling book, geared toward regional stakeholders and community leaders, to foster dialogue that can contribute to a better city.

Supeena Adler, ethnomusicology — “Researching, Teaching and Performing a Folk Tradition of Northeast Thailand”
Thailand has multiple culturally-distinct regions with vibrant folk traditions that are rarely taught to students at U.S. academic institutions. With this project, Adler intends to thoroughly document one specific folk tradition from the northeast region of Thailand, to acquire the instruments and costumes associated with this tradition, and to implement instruction in this regional tradition as part of her UCLA course “Music of Thailand Ensemble.”

Karida Brown, sociology and African American studies — “Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to the Children of the Sun”
Brown, a sociologist, and Charly Palmer, a fine artist, will co-host a one-day exhibition symposium at UCLA featuring the art, literature and music created for a forthcoming revived publication of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Brownies Book,” a periodical published in the 1920s for children of color. The event will bring together more than 30 nationally renowned Black visual and literary artists to showcase the original works they produced for the anthology and to serve as panel discussants around issues of race and representation in the art and literary worlds.

Lily Chen-Hafteck, music — “Effects of a Culturally Responsive Music Curriculum on the Well-Being of Elementary School Students”
This study will investigate how Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school students benefit from classes designed to teach the music and cultures of other students, in order to increase their cultural understanding and appreciation, and thereby reduce racial prejudice. Ten schools with a majority of students from low socio-economic status will be invited to participate in the project. Thirty teachers will receive training and teaching materials to implement the curriculum in their classrooms. A survey will be administered to teachers, students and parents before and after the course to evaluate the effects on the students.

Kristine Flanagan (Kristy Guevara-Flanagan), film, television and digital media — “Body Parts, A Feature Documentary”
“Body Parts” is a critical, at times playful investigation into the making of Hollywood sex scenes, revealing movie magic at work while candidly exploring the toll on those involved. From a kaleidoscopic range of perspectives, the film traces how a cinematic legacy of exploitation and ingenuity has shaped the entertainment industry and its audiences. Can an authentic and more ethical vision of on-screen female sexuality be realized? The answers impact the world at large.

Dan Froot, world arts and cultures/dance — “Arms Around America”
“Arms Around America” is a four-year oral history and theater project that fosters civic dialogue on the role of guns in American society. Oral histories are conducted with families in Miami; Helena, Montana; and Los Angeles, whose lives have been shaped in some way by guns. This grant will support adapting three oral histories into short playscripts. The plays will be produced as podcasts and performed live in the families’ home communities. Those performances also function as community forums, during which audiences are given space to discuss how and whether issues represented in the plays relate to their own experiences.

Barbara Fuchs, English, Spanish and Portuguese — “Documenting Theater Process and Event: Comedia Performance as Research”
This project will advance the work of scholars, students and theater practitioners engaged with the analysis of stage performance by generating and making accessible research material from the comedia (Hispanic three-act plays produced on both sides of the Atlantic during the 17th century), a corpus that provides exciting opportunities for the exploration of issues of gender, class, identity, and the diverse cultural and linguistic heritage of the United States.

Sean Metzger, theater — “Shootings: Responses From Black Diasporic Artists”
This online gallery includes images by and with three Black artists who represent different experiences in North America of the relationship between the use of guns and systemic racial violence. This collaborative work will be presented through the online platform Theatre Journal, in conjunction with its special issue on the topic of shootings. Additionally, Metzger anticipates doing an exhibition tour across digital platforms that address different audiences. Editor’s note: On May 10, this post was updated.

Nancy Mithlo, gender studies — “Expanding the Archive: American Indian Activism and Native Artists’ Life Histories”
“Expanding the Archive” proposes the documentation of underrepresented voices of American Indian activism, focusing on artists who took part in the movement and the connection between their commitment to equity and their life histories as practicing artists. This project proposes a focus on Oklahoma City and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as hubs of activism wed with artistic legacies.

Marike Splint, theater — “This Is (Not) Theatre: Exploring Virtual Liveness in Performance”
In August 2020, theater artist Splint created “You Are Here,” a live online performance, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse, that took the audience on a global road trip using Google Earth and was experienced on Zoom. The work received critical acclaim and was one of the first online performances originated during the pandemic. However, the network and hardware setup for this performance did not move past the beta phase. Support from the arts initiative will enable Splint to troubleshoot, further develop and optimize this virtual performance network.

Virginia Steel, UCLA Library — “Celebrating Black Music in Los Angeles”
This project, co-sponsored by the music library and ethnomusicology archive, is the first large-scale exhibition at UCLA focused on a comprehensive representation of Black music in Los Angeles. In addition to featuring familiar names, the exhibit will highlight stories of musicians and composers who have been historically excluded from the narratives of Los Angeles music-making, including Black women musicians and composers, music educators and music venue owners. The exhibit will cover all genres of music, from jazz and gospel to rap and film scores.

Karen Umemoto, urban planning (submitting under the Asian American Studies Center) — “The Los Angeles Chinatown Massacre: 150-year Commemorative Performance and Dialogue”
Amidst a rise in anti-Asian violence in America, this multimedia/multiperforming arts event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871, which involved the lynching of 19 Chinese immigrants. In addition to spoken narrative based on an original written script, the project features a soundscape, which will draw from culturally diverse acoustic instruments and computer-generated sounds, and a body movement artist. The project is a community engagement piece that includes a pre-performance workshop and a post-event reception with speakers, performers and invited guests sharing historical accounts of racist violence against Asians in Los Angeles and linking the experiences of the past to the present.

An interdivisional group of faculty generously gave their time to carefully read and evaluate each of the 40 proposals received for the Chancellor’s Arts Initiative grants.

The 12 projects selected for funding will showcase the power of the arts within our community and throughout the world. Through efforts like the Chancellor’s Arts Initiative and the GO ARTS UCLA website, the Chancellor’s Council on the Arts is committed to advancing the role of the arts as a vital part of the UCLA experience.