For the UCI students who have ventured across the green steelbridge that links the Claire Trevor School of the Arts to the rest of the campus, they might remember the steel girders of unfinished buildings — all of which seemed to be permanently under construction. Now, the chain link fences that roped off the area are gone as the Claire Trevor School of the Arts prepares to officially unveil their newly renovated building while at the same time welcoming its new dean, Joseph S. Lewis III.
“People don’t really understand the large footprint that this kind of education has. Students who come through our school become doctors and lawyers or they open businesses. They do all kinds of things,” Lewis said. “In arts educations, it’s not just about performing or being in a gallery museum. It’s about a very broad education that allows you to think on your feet, to problem-solve and to have an international, global awareness of history. We focus on the professional experience for art-making but we also provide an education that gives a solid foundation for a student to go in any direction that they want to.”
Growing up, Lewis was exposed to art in many mediums. He came from an artistic family (his father was a vocalist and his mother was a painter) and began his career on Broadway, later gravitating toward visual arts. Prior to UCI, Lewis held the position of dean at Alfred University in upstate New York for six years and, before that, was the dean at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. He served as arts chair at Cal State Northridge and also taught at Cal Arts.
Lewis, who began his professional career as a community-based artist in the South Bronx in New York, considers himself a third generation artist, with professional-level experience in theater, music and visual arts. “I bring those experiences and that perspective with me,” he said. “I believe it is important to be involved in your community and to give back to your community.”
With construction completed, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ new building is a valuable addition for the instruction of its students. The Contemporary Arts Center, equipped with a new black box theater, gallery, motion capture studio and new computer labs for students, provides space and technology in order to facilitate learning at the School of the Arts. Several improvements have gone into soundproofing the rooms and high-end sound equipments have been donated to by Myers Sound.
An important factor is the proximity of the different art departments in sharing the building, an aspect that seem vital in building a strong, communal environment among students and faculty at Claire Trevor.
“I think the new building will be a good opportunity for all of the School of the Arts to work together in a common place,” said third-year drama major Jennifer Hill. “It took longer than I would like, but I think it will be good once it’s open.”
“Creativity is generated by border crossings,” said Professor Philip Thompson of the department of drama. “This building does a really good job of designating spaces for a variety of departments. Institutions of higher educations are meant to be places where we come up with new stuff, and in order to do that, you have to put the people next to each other.”
Now, with a new dean and a new building, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (which is currently celebrating its 10th year since being named for the Academy Award-winning actress) can continue its work in “attracting the best and the brightest minds,” according to Professor Thompson.
“Come out and see what we are doing,” Lewis said. “We really want to connect with the students in more than just providing an educational experience in the classroom. We want them to come and be involved with us and support us in what we do.”