UCLA Year of the Arts: Los Angeles Takes the World Stage

In a formal ceremony at the Fowler Museum courtyard on October 12th, UCLA proudly declared 2004-2005 as the Year of the Arts.  This declaration may seem redundant considering that Los Angeles already hosts several world-class museums, cinemas, educational institutions, and performing groups.  However, with the hundreds of events planned for the Year of the Arts, UCLA has taken the city to the highest level on the national and international artistic scene.  What better place to host film, theater, dance, opera, concerts, lectures, and symposia than the sprawling 440-acre campus that boasts ten departments devoted to arts, two internationally acclaimed museums, the prestigious Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, the largest university-based film archive in the world, and a preeminent position in the visual, performing, and media arts.  Get ready to open your wallets, run up your credit cards, and experience some of the most unique and wonderful cultural events ever compiled by a university anywhere.


Botanica exhibit at Fowler Museum

Some of the events already taking place include the Fowler Museum's exhibit titled "Botánica Los Angeles: Latino Popular Religious Art in the City of Angels."  Botánicas large and small appear throughout Los Angeles more than any other city in the country.  They traditionally combine elements of a spiritual center, a religious supply house, and an alternative healthcare facility under one roof.  Curator Patrick Arthur Polk re-created a typical botánica with all its sacred tchotchkes as well as five distinct altars/shrines representing different components of Latino religiosity.  The clever arrangement of objects like Winnie the Pooh seated next to the Buddha reveals how modern idols are often used to represent the divine.  This exhibition runs through February 27, 2005.  Coupled with this exhibit is an installation by Franco Mondini-Ruiz titled "Infinite Botánica: L.A." that synthesizes standard elements of botánica with the artist's contemporary imagination.  Mondini-Ruiz uses secular iconography to explore themes of faith, ethnicity, and identity.  This presentation ends January 30, 2005. 

Other UCLA Year of the Arts events include the Hammer Museum's exhibition titled "The Undiscovered Country" which explores 23 artists' approaches to representational paintings over the last forty years.  The James Bridges Theater at Melnitz Hall hosts "Selections from Mexican Cinema (1917-2003) and provides a whirlwind filmic tour from silent era to the 1940's "Golden Age" to current productions.  In fact, several world-famous filmmakers and scholars including Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros) and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain (Blade II) will give presentations in October.  The Department of Design will feature a lecture series on Mondays from noon to 2 PM in the Kinross Building (EDA, Room 104) about the connections between art, science, design, architecture, performance, fashion, and technology.  "Away from Home" is the title of a series of lectures and exhibitions sponsored by the Department of Architecture and Urban Design that focuses on famous creators whose works exist outside of their homelands (visit www.aud.ucla.edu for specific dates, locations, and topics).  With hundreds of activities planned throughout the year, the events listed here represent only a microcosm of UCLA's Year of the Arts full scope.


Architect Buzz Yudell with UCLA faculty

Glorya Kaufman donated $18 million to UCLA in what is still the largest single donation to the dance art form in America.  The money went towards transforming the former Women's Gym aka Dance Building into a massive high-tech mecca for the arts named Glorya Kaufman Hall after its patron.  The original structure was built in 1932 as part of the core six buildings of the UCLA campus.  After undergoing extensive damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the building fell into disuse until reconstruction began in 2001.  What emerged from nature's fury is man's triumph.  The revamped building highlights five acoustically and visually distinct dance studios, numerous sound stages and labs, a 3,600-square-foot outdoor garden pavilion, and a glorious 500-person capacity main theater featuring fully customizable spatial, seating, and lighting options.  To forge these sweeping changes UCLA hired renowned architect and former UCLA adjunct professor Buzz Yudell of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners.  The architect needed to accommodate the new building's main tenants, the Department of World Arts and Cultures (formerly an amalgamation of the World Arts & Cultures program and the Dance Department) while remaining true to the building's historic exterior and while factoring its major role as a center point for dance and arts throughout the entire city.  The firm took cues from faculty, most notably professor Peter Sellars who encouraged the architectural firm to reconsider their notions of what theaters should look like and pursue something more warm, flexible, and technologically advanced.  "Soundstage meets Shinto shrine." Sellars asserted.  The finished product will be officially unveiled in Spring 2005 although some UCLA Live dance events will not take place there until 2006.

South Indian dance performance

Another major donor, Eli and Edythe Broad, gave $23.2 million toward the construction of a new art center on the UCLA campus.  Another casualty of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the building formerly known as Dickson will become the Edythe L. and Eli Broad Center, and it will house the Department of Art, the Department of Design/Media Arts, and the new Wight Gallery.  This arts complex will also feature a major installation by sculptor Richard Serra.  The grand opening celebration and sculpture unveiling will take place in Fall 2005.
Over $40 million in private philanthropy, the dedication of two first-rate arts facilities in one year, and the unparalleled breadth of cultural programming in the academic year 2004-2005 provided the inspiration for UCLA Year of the Arts.  Take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity, this homage to an under funded discipline, this rare convergence of world-class art in our city, and make sure to enjoy the UCLA Year of the Arts one day at a time.

For more details on specific events at UCLA Year of the Arts, visit www.arts.ucla.edu or call 310-825-8000.

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