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The call is loud and nuanced and is leaving too many people in its wake.

As we grapple with the pain of what is an increasingly endemic radicalization of racism toward Asian and Asian American communities, we are including our voices in the explicit call for the end of hate and violence — in all its iterations.

As artists and arts scholars, we have a particular awareness of the impact our representations of ideologies can have on our society. We see the structural inequities in our own domains that affect those whose work is canonized and whose stories are told and how, and we feel an increasing urgency to dismantle the systems that centralize some and marginalize others.

We are, in many ways, the authors of the cultures in which we live. Our work to expand consciousness, erode misunderstanding, and move society feels as necessary as ever for many of us.

While we continue this work, we want to make it abundantly clear that our values are rooted in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We invite all those interested to engage with us.


Dean John W. Scheib, and members of the CFA’s Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee:
Sonia Albert Sobrino
Melonie Buchanan Murray
Elizabeth Craft
Stephanie Garcia
Marina Gomberg
Karineh Hovsepian
Lizzy Ivkovich
Brian Manternach
Sai Nitish Paladugu
Pablo Piantino
Sarah Reichel
Aathaven Tharmarajah
Xi Zhang

Published in Finer Points Blog
Tagged under

As part of the University of Utah College of Fine Arts’ strategic plan, a new group of faculty and staff from across the college have come together to focus on issues surrounding justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Meet, the JEDI Committee, which was formed during Fall 2019 and began meeting in January of this year:  

Sonia Albert-SobrinoJEDI blog headshots b is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor at the Department of Film & Media Arts. She says, “The world is made of diverse people and it has been always my intention to include them in my works. As a storyteller, I fondly believe in giving them a voice that is distinct while, at the same time, relatable and familiar for everyone else. It is because of that, that I place people who don’t usually star in a movie at the forefront of my work. As an educator, I aim to make sure that my students honor the cultures, background and history of the subjects in their films and media art projects. In the classroom, we work hard as a team to understand everyone’s else’s point of view, challenging and learning from each other.” 

Elizabeth CraftJEDI blog headshots b2 is an Assistant Professor of Musicology in the School of Music, teaching classes on twentieth– and twenty-first–century Western music, music of the United States, opera, and musical theater. Understanding how difference and power are manifested in music and culture is at the heart of her teaching and research. Her published work addresses racial and ethnic representation, narratives of immigrant experiences, and constructions of nationhood in U.S. musical theater, from early 20th-century musicals by George M. Cohan to the recent megahit Hamilton.

Marina GombergJEDI blog headshots b3 is the Director of Communications + Marketing for the University of Utah College of Fine Arts and has nearly 15 years of experience managing public relations and marketing strategies in the nonprofit, private and public sectors. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Gender Studies from the University of Utah, and has been engaged in social justice advocacy ever since, with a particularly focus on inclusive storytelling. Her passions lie in activism, the arts, writing, travel and food. She’s a lifestyle columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune and an occasional contributor to HuffPost. 

Karineh HovsepianJEDI blog headshots b4, Assistant Dean for Finance & Operations in the College of Fine Arts, has over 30 years of experience working in financial management. She launched her career at a “Big Eight” international public accounting firm doing financial consulting and auditing, then became self-employed as a Financial Consultant, working primarily with public entities, non-profits, and small business start-ups. Hovsepian is an Armenian immigrant from Iran and raised in Honolulu from age four. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with an emphasis in Financial Information Systems from the University of Utah and is a Certified Public Accountant. She has been a passionate social justice activist since the age of 14. 

Liz Ivkovich JEDI blog headshots b5hails from rural Michigan. She is the Development Director for UtahPresents. Liz received her BS in Sustainable Business (Aquinas ‘07) and MFA in Modern Dance (Utah ’16). Her research explores dance and environmental justice, with articles in the Journal of Environmental Studies & Sciences, Local Environment, loveDANCEmore, and Performance Research. 


Jay (Jong-Hoon) KimJEDI blog headshots c2 is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Dance at the University of Utah. He earned his MFA from the University of Utah, his BFA from the Sejong University, and is an ABT® Certified Teacher. Kim’s professional career includes dancing as a principal and soloist artist with Universal Ballet Company, Korean National Ballet, Korean Ballet Theatre, and Dayton Ballet Theatre, across 13 countries and 150 cities on the major stages of the world. He created, established, and serves as Director of the University of Utah Asian Campus, International Ballet Summer Intensive held in Incheon, Korea; an international, high caliber, culturally enriching ballet program, of students aged 15-26 from America and Korea.

Brian ManternachJEDI blog headshots b6, DMus, is an Assistant Professor (Clinical) in the Department of Theatre and a Research Associate for the CFA's National Center for Voice and Speech. He has long been a passionate advocate of performing arts as a medium to promote social justice. He also believes strongly in the responsibility of theatre to tell the stories of those in underrepresented communities.  


Melonie Buchanan MurrayJEDI blog headshots b7 is the Associate Dean for Faculty & Academic Affairs for the College of Fine Arts and an Associate Professor within the School of Dance. Her research interests lie in exploring the continual evolution of dance as an academic discipline and, and while honoring the past, investigating dance and ballet through a critical theory lens, particularly in terms of gender. Her academic writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and she continues to explore the arts, dance, and ballet as scholarly pursuits. Melonie is deeply committed to the arts in education and initiatives supporting equity and inclusion. Professional affiliations include CORPS de Ballet International, Dance Studies Association, and the World Dance Alliance-Americas. 

Xi ZhangJEDI blog headshots c is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Art History. His vibrant paintings manifest the psychological weight experienced in moments of turmoil and tribulations. In his oneiric narratives, melancholia is a familiar companion – overbearing landscapes and foreboding atmospheres suppress his lonely protagonists, obscuring the delineation of fantasy and reality. Zhang has been featured in national press on CNN, PBS, and NPR. In May 2020, Zhang was awarded the SeeMe Grand Prize in Painting by a panel of judges including Jerry Saltz (New York Magazine senior arts critic and Pulitzer Prize winner) and Christine Kuan (CEO of Sotheby’s Institute of Art) for Art Saves Humanity: a web-based juried exhibition to raise funds for struggling artists.

As a group, the JEDI Committee has defined what justice, equity, diversity and inclusion can mean within the context of the College of Fine Arts, and are using these ideas to assess progress and needs throughout:

The seeking or realization of fairness, equity, and inclusivity.

The creation of opportunities for historically underserved and underrepresented populations to have equal access to and participate in educational programs, professional growth opportunities, and resource networks that are capable of closing the achievement gaps in student success and completion, and demographic disparities in leadership roles.

The variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. It is the variety created in any society (and within any individual) by the presence of different points of view and ways of making meaning, which generally flow from the influence of different cultural, ethnic and religious heritages, and includes personality, learning styles and life experiences, and from the differences that emerge from class, age, ability, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability and other socially constructed characteristics.

The active, intentional, and ongoing invitation and celebration of diversity — in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect — in ways that increase awareness, access, knowledge, empathy, and understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

The group is eager to resume its work identifying resources on campus and across the nation to continue the college’s unending work toward greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion this fall. They will be planning education opportunities and community dialogues for the college community. Stay tuned for education opportunities and community dialogues to follow.

If you have ideas, resources, questions, or want to share your experience, we all encourage you to contact one or all of us.

Published in Finer Points Blog
June 02 2020

Work to do

Artists have long used their crafts as a means of rising up in the face of injustice, and this moment is no different.

The University of Utah College of Fine Arts unequivocally denounces racism, and actively works to dismantle the systems of oppression that breed inequality, discrimination, and pain — and acknowledge we aren't immune from them. Our vision is the manifestation of a culture rooted in justice, equity, and inclusion.

We are listening and will continue to work to amplify underrepresented voices within our campus and beyond. We can all do better.

We encourage you to read the statement below from The University of Utah Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who will be sharing additional resources for our campus community in the days ahead. 

Dear University Community: From the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Kate Mattingly 

As a researcher who teaches courses in dance histories, dance studies, and dance criticism, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we communicate through our bodies and our words. My dissertation, which I completed in 2017, analyzes how dance criticism not only responds to a performance but also shapes and influences our value systems and priorities. Historically, dance critics have wielded a lot of power: John Martin named the genre “modern dance” and heavily influenced the success of certain choreographers, like Martha Graham, in the 20th century. 

But digital platforms change the status and authority of critics’ words because there are more immediate opportunities to challenge a viewpoint and to use social media platforms to offer different perspectives. A great example of this happened in 2010 when a New York Times critic wrote that Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy with New York City Ballet, looked “as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” The outpouring of support for Ringer led to her appearance on The Today Show and Oprah. These interviews are still available online, making the critic's words less definitive. jennifer ringer

In my scholarship I analyze how the digital sphere opens spaces for a co-existence of different perspectives, and how this brings attention to artists and ideas that have been misrepresented or completely ignored. Much of my current research focuses on how criticism in the 21st century can challenge the sexisms, racisms, and classisms that have circulated through print critics’ writing.  On April 14, I gave a lecture for students and faculty at UCLA on digital dance criticism, and how traces of a project by Amara Tabor-Smith called “House/Full of Black Women,” circulated through photographs Amara posted on Facebook, thereby extending the reach of her processions that happened in Oakland, California. This is an important example of how artists bypass a critic who speaks “for” a project and instead gives the artist access to self-representation and self-definition. 

In my dance studies course this semester, when we shifted to an online format, students shared final projects through PowerPoint presentations and then we opened online discussions about the topics. The students’ work was stellar and the online discussions deepened and extended the conversations we had begun earlier in the semester when we were meeting together. One particularly timely project, by Todd Lani ’20, examined social media users who can promote social justice or their own fame. Todd used Matt Bernstein as an example of a social media “activist” who thinks of others and dismantles hate and violence against LGBTQ+ communities. Todd wrote, “Growing up in a smaller rural area, the media (more specifically social media) was the only outlet and opportunity that I had to see any representation of someone like myself.” 

During this pandemic, as we find ourselves relying on the digital sphere, we might also be noticing the differences between attending a live performance and watching dancing through a screen. There are undoubtedly things that seem to be missing, like the communal experience of watching a performance with a hundred-plus people, or the feeling of liveness and immediacy as an artist creates the movement in your presence. But there are also advantages: many companies are offering performances to view free of charge, and events that happened in far away places are now visible in our homes. 

A student-run group at the University of Utah, the Dance Studies Working Group, took a trip to San Francisco in 2018, supported by funding from a FAF Grant, to see a festival called Unbound and attend a Symposium of guest speakers who included Dwight Rhoden, Virginia Johnson, and Marc Brew. When the company’s current performance season had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, SF Ballet released performances from Unbound online. This Friday students and alumni of the Ballet Program are hosting a zoom conversation, organized by Victoria Holmes Johnson ’19, to discuss the possibilities of online transmission, and also what’s missing in this virtual realm. 

We think these conversations are important during this time of uncertainty because we hope that the future of dance, like the future of dance criticism, will be more inclusive and equitable. Artists are known for their imaginations, able to problem-solve and think creatively, and their expertise is invaluable at this moment. 

Finally, when people use words like “unprecedented” to describe this pandemic, they are making invisible a lot of people who have not had access to services or movement for years, if not decades. People who are confined and dependent on others due to disabilities could be our teachers. I hope that this moment of "uncertainty" is an opportunity for us to look at our interconnectedness: how do we support and nurture one another? how do we honor  our different needs and capacities? I hope we do not return to a world that is about individualism, convenience, and control, but rather one that embraces the interdependencies and indeterminacy of life. 

Author Kate Mattingly is an assistant professor in the University of Utah School of Dance. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

Since last week's announcement that classes at the University of Utah would be conducted online for the remainder of the semester, many College of Fine Arts students have risen to the challenge with positivity, compassion and drive. Susannah Mecham, a second-year student in the Department of Art & Art History majoring in painting and drawing with a minor in sculpture, decided to start a unique Instagram account where her fellow U students could connect around their creative work.

To foster new connections as well as provide support in an unsteady situation, Mecham established @coronaartcollective where she encourages University of Utah fine arts students to connect and share what they are creating. 

Here's what she had to say about it: 

"Over the course of the last week I was camping out of range of cell service with a group of fellow University of Utah students. It was a very surreal experience to drive home with our phones exploding as we passed signs flashing pandemic hotlines on the freeway, with the person next to me reading through updates from family, friends, government and the university. Everything seemed like it was happening all at once -- because it was for us. I was deeply saddened that I would miss creative opportunities and time within a community that I love.  

"I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward."

"I received an email from my sculpture professor, Kelsey Harrison, who suggested that we find ways to connect with other art students to continue critiquing and discussing work. Kelsey also suggested that we continue to be informed about what other people were making and what drives their art practices while our own creative practices as students are being challenged and imposed upon by social distancing and quarantines. IMG 75BCA33FC5F0 1

"After sharing some of my feelings about the situation with my mom, she suggested that I get online and start making things happen! I decided Instagram would be a good platform as it is used widely by creative communities. Since then I have enjoyed watching the creative community respond to the COVID-19 situation by continuing to make art, music, and more. In a time where everything is put on hold and becoming more stagnant, creativity is beginning to flourish and it is very exciting. 

Staying connected to the University of Utah is important to me during this time because I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward." 

Follow @coronaartcollective on Instgram to see student work and share your own! 

Do you have a resource you'd like to share with fellow students? Tag us on Instagram at @uofufinearts.

Stay well and stay connected. 

Published in Finer Points Blog