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Conoley, Garcia Underscore Importance Of The Arts

Published: August 1, 2014

When CSULB President Jane Conoley and Mayor Robert Garcia gave their first policy address at the Educational Forum on campus in the University Student Union on July 18, they underscored the importance of the arts and arts education. The two made it clear to the audience of more than 150 that CSULB is a leader in art education and will continue to be, their comments coming on the eve of National Art Appreciation Month (August).

“We’re committed to having low cost for degrees for our graduates,” said Conoley, as part of her first public statement as campus president. “Our students leave with low debt and we prepare among the most engineers, business people and artists—more than any other university in California.”

Conoley’s and Garcia’s discussion of the arts at the forum did not go unnoticed by the leaders of the College of the Arts—Dean Cyrus Parker-Jeannette and Christopher Miles, who concluded his two-year stint as interim dean on July 31.

“The mayor’s and president’s comments at the Educational Forum were the latest among numerous promising signs for their support of the arts,” commented Miles, who will serve as vice chair of the CSULB Academic Senate in the coming year. “Mayor Garcia has been an advocate for the arts since his school days and President Conoley has been coming to our campus arts events and corresponding with CSULB arts students and faculty for the last few months. In her first week on campus, she also came out to the site of a collaborative project between students and faculty in the Design Department, University Art Museum staff, guest artists, and campus architects and construction managers.”

Parker-Jeannette had similar praise for the two leaders and is looking forward to working with both.

“As President Conoley and Mayor Garcia spoke at the forum, my spirits buoyed as both revealed such commitment to student success from a broad perspective of strategies,” she said. “Their clear acknowledgement regarding the cultural and economic impact of the arts in our city and in society is an indication of the direction we all need to take. Their speeches inspire me to work harder for greater community and campus interface through the arts and education.”

Both Conoley and Garcia have long track records of support for the arts, professionally and personally. Conoley played an active role in the arts in Santa Barbara where, while as dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, she served on the advisory board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The arts and culture figured prominently in Garcia’s successful campaign for mayor and he was a vocal advocate for the arts while serving on the Long Beach City Council and as Associated Student Inc. President on the CSULB campus from 2000-01.

The arts programs on the campus of CSULB are glad to have such strong advocates and the College of the Arts boasts some of the most highly respected and sought after faculty in the nation.

President Jane Conoley (l) and Mayor Robert Garcia.

Some of its recent highlights include School of Art faculty member Mark Ruwedel being named the winner of Canada’s 2014 Scotiabank Photography Award just weeks after being selected as a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow in Photography. Christine Guter, Director of Vocal Jazz Studies for CSULB’s Cole Conservatory of Music, is widely recognized as one of the best vocal jazz instructors in the nation. Under her leadership, Pacific Standard Time, CSULB’s premiere vocal jazz ensemble received its fourth national recognition in a row from Downbeat Magazine, and for the third year was the top university-based ensemble in the Monterey Jazz Next Generation Festival competition. In addition, Cole Conservatory faculty member Tom Peters was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award in the “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” category for the recording “Cage: The Ten Thousand Things.”

“This university is in our city,” said Garcia. “It prepares almost more engineers, business leaders and health service professionals than anywhere else in the state. Every year, this university graduates and produces more artists than almost anywhere else west of the Mississippi. More artists come out of this university than almost anywhere else. That is something to be proud of.”

–Shayne Schroeder