Happy New Year! As we launch ourselves back into the art of performance, I am thinking about curiosity and how important it is to be curious creatures.
One of the underpinnings of what we do here is informed by a sense of curiosity, both our presenting curiosity as a curatorial entity but also as a Center that seeks to create a safe space and fertile playground to discover what artists and makers are curious about—and in turn to inspire curiosity in the students, audience goers, patrons, art makers, thinkers, inventors, creators and researchers who surround us as they matriculate, educate and encounter new ideas on this campus or as they visit this institution by attending our programs.
Kristy Edmunds, our director, last year filled in for longtime UCLA arts professor and theater director Peter Sellars, teaching his class titled “Art as Moral Action.” It is a class in UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures department, but one that is taken by students from multiple disciplines in the arts and other studies. Kristy often talks about her time teaching this class. And given that she is one of the most curious humans around, she often queried her students of the time about their relationship to the arts, seeking to discover what made them curious about the world beyond their personal and projected studies.
What Kristy discovered and what we continue to discover as we work with and amid students, is a sense that students do not feel like they can afford to be curious. Literally. With the costs of an education rising every year, they move through their course of study with a laser focus on the classes required for their particular degree. There’s often no time or funds to spare on a meandering elective course like “Tudor England” or “Early Women Writers,” like yours truly was lucky enough to somehow fit in alongside the requirements for a Journalism Degree 15 years ago.
The ability to be curious today can be a precious commodity. When it comes to helping students at UCLA explore their curiosity in the arts, we sometimes find ourselves with limited access to their time and attention, a fact all parties lament–which is why we are continually investing in ways to integrate artists and our program into the college experience and curriculum on this campus.
We think curiosity is an essential part of the University experience. It is an essential part of the human experience. Curiousness, whether it’s about a thing, a person, a time in history or a place in the world, is the precursor to understanding and to empathy. And understanding and empathy are the things that inspire human beings, on an interpersonal and societal level, to collectively move forward toward goals that are more aligned than combative. Curiosity, understanding and empathy are things we cannot have too much of.
And art, in all its vibrant shapes, sounds, colors, themes, its oddities and collaborations is one of the greatest instigators of curiosity.
In the spirit of curiosity, I thought I would share a few interesting tidbits about the artists visiting us this month that will hopefully pique your curiosity.
DID YOU KNOW…..that for nearly 20 years Louise was the principal dancer and muse for La La La Human Steps, a thrilling and innovative dance troupe from her home base of Montreal? This brought her center stage with pop icon David Bowie often and she also performed in one of Frank Zappa’s final concerts.
ALSO… “So Blue,” the work we are presenting, is the first piece she ever choreographed, for herself. She’s in her 50s now, but her body hasn’t slowed down on her. She holds an epic headstand in the piece that will have all our abdominal muscles shaking.
DID YOU KNOW….Porter was born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield and originally went to college in San Diego on a football scholarship. Though he calls Brooklyn home now, California will always have a soft spot for this soulful vocalist.
DID YOU KNOW…Sussan, who is known amid Hollywood as an incredible vocalist and composer whose voice has been featured on such major motion pictures as “Argo,” “The Kite Runner” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” studied dance and performance in the late 1970s with the notable French choreographer, dancer and opera director Maurice Béjart at his Mudra School in Brussels.
DID YOU KNOW….Frank is not only the creator of one of the most successful blogs in the world, one that inspires people to share anonymous secrets, he also volunteers for the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1(800)SUICIDE, for which PostSecret has helped raise more than $500,000. In 2006, Warren was presented a special award from the National Mental Health Association in recognition of how PostSecret has “moved the cause of mental health forward.”
ALSO…during PostSecret Live events things can get not-so-anonymous. Frank invites the audience to share secrets live in front of each other and says that far from being a tough sell, it is often the most funny, poignant and special moments of the night.
Bring your secrets, bring your curiosity. We’re ready for more creative ways of looking at the world in 2015.
Stay curious my friends!