At UCLA, Catherine Opie is targeting art school loans.



Artist Catherine Opie, professor of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles 20 years, has great ideas for the art department of the university. Among them: reducing student debt and reducing economic barriers to education.

This is the vision that Opie can become aware of: UCLA has named her head of the art department, it said Tuesday. She takes over on September 1st. replacement artist Andrea Fraser, who has been in charge of the department since January 2018.

In 2019, the University of California Los Angeles declared Opie a university first endowed chair in the arts department, the position is funded by a donation of $ 2 million. Linda and Stuart Resnick… This role under Fraser was that of an undergraduate and graduate teacher. A department chair is a leading administrative position working with faculty and staff to develop the curriculum, goals and priorities of the art department.

Opie’s Commitment to Ensuring Access to Education for All Students needed “now more than ever,” said Brett Steele, Dean of the School of Art and Architecture, University of California, Los Angeles.

“As the arts themselves evolve, especially in this new world we find ourselves in, and the attention that last year’s crisis has put on our need to find ways to support all students, Katie’s voice is vital,” he said, referring to inequality among students, which were partially associated with the pandemic.

Opie, 60, it famous artist which for over four decades produced portrait painting, landscapes and studio photography, in conceptual and documentary styles, with a deepening cultural and geographical identity. A new monograph Phaidon came out this month.

She plans to turn her artistic eye towards the emerging art of photography as well as the post-COVID-19 educational landscape, but always with an emphasis on accessibility to art education, she said in this edited conversation.

Why is accessibility such a key issue for you?

We know that one of the biggest problems in our country for young people is debt from education. We also know, thanks to statistics and the vast amount of research done, that one of the areas that is most difficult to enter in relation to equal pay is art. So why should we understand that students should not leave with a bachelor’s degree and [significant debt]… Obviously people take loans. Living in Los Angeles is becoming more and more expensive. There are other needs, basic human needs such as food and shelter. At UCLA, we have student starvation issues. Some students sleep in their cars.

These are problems not only of the art department, but also of larger university problems. But the more we can build UCLA as a community institution, especially art as a vital part of the city of Los Angeles, that’s our goal. Can we get to a place where students don’t stretch out to fulfill their dreams and goals through education?

How do you plan to get there?

I would like to contribute at least $ 10 million to UCLA over the next three years to ensure the continued safety of the scholarships. And then the better-off professorships that we can provide create some kind of physical security in terms of hiring adjuncts. [faculty]… This is another important thing – these adjunct professors, they often come and they are incredible, and they teach here and there, but they don’t have health insurance, they don’t have the same access. So what does that share of capital mean right now, and how can I help through charity to improve the situation not only for students, but also for additional faculty at UCLA?

What other goals do you set for the art department?

Through Reznikov, I was able to receive a gift: to secure my position, as well as to rebuild dark rooms for the level of teachers that we have and the prominence of our program. Therefore, I want to continue working on well-to-do positions. I want to continue working on scholarships. And I want to keep improving the conditions.

But there is something that I have wanted to solve for the past 20 years: south [hard sciences] and north [social sciences] the campus is divided. I really believe that the UCLA hospital system has no reason not to accept art. I would like to see a student gallery that hosts rotating exhibitions in the hospital. I would like to see wellness and art combined with a broader program like the Cleveland and Kaiser Permanente Clinic, which is currently engaged in. Obviously we are here to teach, so we continue the department’s reputation [is a goal]… But also, what can we do for a broader discussion of art at UCLA?

Are there issues specific to diversity, equity, and inclusion that you hope to solve?

Last year, we started most of this work in the form of committee meetings, and we have [new] DEI officer. Be off campus last year [while on sabbatical], I have not been to these meetings yet. But I can tell you that just in terms of my teaching for the past 20 years, it has been a very, very diverse program, because we are UCLA and this is a government agency.

This was not at the faculty, but over the past five years we have done a lot to solve this problem. Also, I want to talk to the other faculty members – I haven’t been chairman yet – and I want to know what worries them. After the pandemic, there may be other concerns that I am not aware of because I was on sabbatical. I think this is about communicating with the rest of the faculty in terms of setting the agenda for the next five years.

The past year has been particularly challenging in the field of education. What problems do you have with the art department after the pandemic?

What worries me most is the 2020 graduation and the inability to show my theses as graduate students. This is the culmination of graduate work – getting a thesis. So, what can we do for those graduates who did not necessarily have the same experience in being able to show their work to the general public.

Have there been any major changes in the past year in the way art is taught at the University of California, Los Angeles?

I could see certain aspects of what we learned from the pandemic persist. Personal lectures are always best done with artists. But if you can get an artist from Europe to switch to Zoom, submit their work, and talk to graduate students, I might see how to keep that idea of ​​accessibility in the program. But we are a true studio art program, we rely on our premises and our studios – students – creators. Again, depending on which environment they come from, object accessibility is everything in art.

You prefer not to advance the next term in Modern Art Museum Board because of your new UCLA position. Why?

I have served on the MOCA board for eight years. I value my relationships with other trustees very much. But [considering] my goals of transparency and governance and what I personally believe in, I really feel like I can’t reach out to some of these people on the board if I stay as trustee to ask them to think about UCLA. I don’t think it’s fair for me to be a trustee of an institution that also needs money, remaining a trustee and asking some of the members associated with UCLA to give gifts. I don’t think this is good management practice.

What excites you the most?

The first step is to ask what happened with the pandemic last year and talk to each teacher about their dreams and goals for the program. And then recalibrate them in terms of moving forward.

And charity. I really enjoy collecting money. I did it pretty well at UCLA. I want to see if we can somehow get some corporate sponsorship for the hardware needs. This is how we discover the culture, we actually support the culture. Philanthropy doesn’t always have to come from the super-rich. Philanthropy should be a part of all of us, to a certain extent a part of citizenship. One of the things that Obama did is he showed that charity can have $ 2 in someone. And I really believe in it. It’s so important not to drop out of college with a huge debt that will keep you from moving on.


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