A Work of Art

Vinson Gotingco/Photography Intern

The Claire Trevor School of the Arts invited alumni, faculty, students, benefactors and distinguished personnel to the grand opening of the Contemporary Arts Center on Wednesday, Nov. 9th, for a night of celebration and appreciation. In 2006, Proposition 1D gave UC Irvine $200 million for construction funds, which immediately went into constructing new engineering, social science and humanities buildings.

According to Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M.D. the state of California ran out of funds before the arts center could come to fruition. Despite this obstacle, Drake made the Contemporary Arts Center’s construction a priority. Thanks to the generous donations from the Leo Freedman Foundation, Meyer Sound Laboratories amongst several others, the Arts Center was finally built.

“We’ve weathered storms, economic downturns, state budget short falls and punch lists, but finally here we are gathered together to celebrate the official grand opening of the Contemporary Arts Center,” announced Joseph Lewis III, Dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Inside, distinguished members and guests strolled from room to room, watching students and faculty performances in a variety of art forms. Not only was this building created with the highest environmental standards in mind, but also it creates an environment for all types of artists to gather together and work in one place.

“It stitches together studio arts, dance, drama and music in a functional and spatial harmony,” remarked Steve Ehrlich of Ehrlich Architects, who worked with arts faculty to make their vision a reality.

Inside the lobby level to the left, dancers performed in different styles, leaping, pirouetting and prancing across the stage in the Mixed Media Performance Space accompanied by music from the surround sound. To the right, inside the dimly lit Exhibition Space, people walked across the corridor, viewing foreign films playing in different spaces. On the second floor, containing several staff offices, music students April Kim and Nicole Shalit serenaded those who passed with their Bartok Violin Duo, while on the other side, Josh Ottum created a surreal groove with his electronic guitar improvisations. “It’s one of the most amazing places on our campus,” praised Chancellor Drake.

“We’re so proud of our performing and creative artists and the things that they do to capture the essence of what it means to be human, capture the American and the universal experience, and then share that with us all to help our lives be more enriched and full.”

On the ground level, Assistant Professor Dr. Jeffrey A. Russell and his Dance Science Research Group study the physical demands of dance on the human body. One member of his team, Lillian Wang, a biological sciences major, demonstrated an insole used to discover the areas dancers place the most pressure on their feet to help shoe companies make products that best suit the dancer’s needs while straining their bodies as minimally as possible.

John Crawford, associate professor of dance, expressed his enthusiasm to work with the science and engineering departments in the Motion Capture Studio on the ground level. This green room, contains a 28-camera motion capture system that is not only used for scientific research but also to make 3-D animations that creates interactive environments, animations and motion graphics for dance, theater and music.

“It reflects the kind of environment of the professional world,” Lewis III said regarding the technology and diversity of art forms in the building.

“Guests had a chance to peek into different rooms on the third level to watch students and faculty at work. With scripts in hand and their harmonies blending, students practiced scenes from musical theater, while in another room, instrumentalists mixed old and new knowledge together with an experimental system using a custom app running on Apple’s popular iOS platform to create a multilayered sonic environment. In the Outreach Lab, student digital arts creations were displayed off iPads and headphones as well as the high quality projector on the back wall. Not too far down the hall, the Costume Shop displayed student designs and garments and the high tech machines used to make them.

“It has vaulted us into a new century. Without a place to really be able to do this, we wouldn’t be able to advance,” explained Holly Poe Durbin, associate professor of drama, as she pointed out the textile printer and mechanized costume storage and recovery system that rotates clothing across the ceiling of the room and can hold up to 7,000 garments.

“The more technology our students know going out into the world, the better off they are.”

On the fourth level, MFA studio arts students open their studio doors and welcome guests to view their art, while others display their sculptures on the open terrace. Three studio arts, MFA second-years expressed their joy to have new studio spaces to work alongside one another instead of being scattered out in the trailers.

“It’s been nice to just be able to bumble into people’s studios and connect and see what they’re doing,” said Manjulika O’Rourke.

“It’s good to be around similar minded people,” agreed Andrew Brown.

Even though Alexandra Pacheco appreciates having a studio space, she expressed her concern with the narrow room and limited lighting.

“I mean it’s fine in terms of exhibition, but I can’t really make work in it,” said Pacheco

Although the Contemporary Art’s Center is a triumph for the arts department, there is always room to grow and improve in order to aid students in their learning and creative environment. By uniting individuals from various art disciplines across the campus into one place of work, the new center will hopefully enhance the contemporary arts experience at UCI as a whole.