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Berkeley's Center for the Arts Is Born

by Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted October 28, 1998

Conceived at an Arts Council retreat last year, UC Berkeley's new Center for the Arts will become a reality in January, housed for the time-being in the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

16th-century Chinese opera, Peony Pavilion,
The 16th-century Chinese opera, Peony Pavilion, is the first major inaugural event of the Center for the Arts. It will be performed at Zellerbach March 5-7. Composer Tan Dun will create a score fusing the traditional with the new for its contemporary staging.

The Center for the Arts will foster interdisciplinary arts projects among academic departments, campus arts presenting organizations and the community, in the process attracting eminent scholars, artists and performers to campus.

In preparation for its inaugural semester, the center for the Arts has already awarded $50,000 to six campus arts projects -- including opera, dance, film, and painting -- and is recruiting an academic director.

Under the leadership of Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ, the Arts Council drew up a formal proposal for the center, which has received enthusiastic support from the Academic Senate.

"I am extremely happy to see development of a Center for the Arts on the Berkeley campus," says Christ. "The modern university has become one of the most important patrons of the arts. Although Berkeley has a number of outstanding programs in the arts, the whole has been less than the sum of the parts. With the synergies an arts center will encourage, Berkeley will stimulate the kinds of collaborative projects that will distinguish it as one of the country's leading places for significant art."

Members of the Arts Council -- newly renamed the Center for the Arts Advisory Committee -- include representatives from Art Practice, Berkeley Art Museum-Pacific Film Archive (BAM-PFA), Cal Performances, Center for Theater Arts (CTA), College of Environmental Design (CED), Film Studies, History of Art, Music, Public Affairs, and the Townsend Center. Jacquelynn Baas, director of BAM-PFA, is chairing the committee until the first director is appointed.

"The Center for the Arts aims to integrate the arts into the undergraduate experience and to involve the community in campus arts programs," says Baas.

The major inaugural event for the center is the U.S. premiere of the 16th-century Chinese opera, "Peony Pavilion." Directed by Peter Sellars and co-commissioned and produced by Cal Performances, "Peony Pavilion stands alongside Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Monteverdi's glorious operas in the history of great world theater," according to Robert Cole, director of Cal Performances.

Performed in Chinese and English and illuminated by video, digital samplers, synthesizers, and traditional Chinese instruments, Peony Pavilion will fill Zellerbach Hall stage March 5-7 .

The center's first major grant of $15,000 will support the production of Peony Pavilion and concurrent symposia, lectures, and master classes involving CTA, the Music Department, Asian Studies, and the Townsend Center.

The following interdisciplinary projects have each received center grants of $7,000:

Carnival at Fontainebleau (Music, Dance, Art History), Feb. 20. A recreation of part of the Fetes of Fontainebleau staged in 1564 by Catherine de Medici. Director/choreographer is Mark Franko, professor of dance at UC Santa Cruz. Musical directors are David Douglass of The King's Noyse (a Boston-based Renaissance violin band) and the directors of Berkeley's Collegium Musicum -- Kate van Orden and Anthony Martin.

Joe Goode Residency (CTA, Cal Performances, English), Feb. 15-March 12. Dance-theater artist and Regents Lecturer Joe Goode will create a new work, "Leaving," involving student dancers, actors, and writers for performances in April, as well as site-specific mini-performances around campus. He will be on campus Nov. 5-6 to audition and give a mini-workshop.

Johan van der Keuken Residency (Film Studies, PFA), April. This Dutch documentary filmmaker, director of more than 50 films since 1957, will be a featured guest of the San Francisco International Film Festival April 22 - May 6. For two weeks beforehand, PFA will showcase van der Keuken's films and videos and host him for discussions with PFA audiences and visits to campus film, art and anthropology classes.

Robert Colescott Roundtable (BAM, Art Practice, African American Studies, Townsend Center), May 9. Artist and alum Robert Colescott will be on campus for two weeks in May as a Regents Lecturer in Art Practice. His 1997 Venice Biennale painting exhibition opens at BAM May 12. The Roundtable, to include Carrie Mae Weems and Ishmael Reed, will be moderated by Russ Ellis.

Serpentina (Music, German), July. Music professor John Thow has been commissioned by the Berkeley Opera Company to compose an opera based on a fantastical tale by ETA Hoffman involving a young man bewitched by a serpent who turns into a woman. The grant will fund campus workshops and scene development. Students will take part in the performances.


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