UC San Diego’s ArtPower exerts creative force across campus, across borders with concerts and special events
ArtPower has been spreading its creative energy across the campus of UC San Diego — and San Diego in general — for more than 16 years. The program’s mission? To present performing and media arts that engage, energize and transform the campus’ diverse cultural life. Each season offers a different experience for the students, performers and community members who witness it. But as always, students come first.
Executive director Jordan Peimer said: “One of the first questions we ask when developing a season is, ‘Is there a student audience for this?’ ArtPower has been really fortunate to have connected so deeply with the student body. Student attendance has consistently increased in my time here. So, too, has our general attendance.”
Peimer said since he came to his role five years ago: “We have continually refined the program. The biggest single change was the addition of the American Routes series, launched a few years ago. It came as a way to acknowledge that there is no such thing as ‘American Music,’ but what we understand as American actually has deep connections to immigration, which is, of course, a hugely important part of the fabric of America.”
ArtPower has not only expanded its performance repertoire, it has also expanded the physical boundaries of that artistic expression by moving its dance series off campus and into the community. This was done most recently with a special event called “Choir! Choir! Choir!” Impromptu choirs of strangers on both sides of the border were brought together — separated by a fence — to learn songs and perform a concert together at Border Field State Park.
It proved to be one of the riskiest and most rewarding projects ArtPower has undertaken to date. “Getting permission to perform on both sides of the border was a tremendous logistical stretch,” Peimer explained. “Ironically, it was far easier to obtain permission to gather a crowd of people to sing on the beach in Tijuana than it was in the U.S. Because of the focus national events are shining on the border, we weren’t completely certain we could fulfill the requirements until a couple of weeks prior to the event. Having audiences sing together — to literally be in harmony despite the border — was one of the most fulfilling events any of us have worked on.”
Peimer pointed out the diversity of UCSD students is constantly evolving, and ArtPower tries to reflect that by bringing innovative arts experiences that broaden awareness of worlds beyond the confines of campus: “Fundamental to ArtPower is the idea we are more than just a performing arts series. We want to make a significant impact, and a major part of this is to bring artists who have something to teach our students and our audience.”
ArtPower likes to take on the challenge of busting the stereotype that UCSD is primarily a science/tech campus. “The arts are actually thriving on campus,” Peimer said. “Our arts faculty is at the forefront of their respective fields and the work of faculty artists is seen throughout the world. One project we took on several years ago was to create a day that introduced the varied options in the arts at the beginning of each academic year. We look for ways in which our programming can both echo and amplify conversations — social and artistic — that are already happening on campus.”
The students involved with ArtPower are primarily responsible for developing marketing campaigns to sell ArtPower shows to their fellow students and the public. An upcoming performance by the artist Gingee was branded a “Glow Stick Dance Party,” which greatly increased student enthusiasm for the event.
But ArtPower doesn’t stop there. It also tries to tie in academics in some way, whether that’s master classes for musicians or professional dancers teaching dancing students, or artists just sharing their cultural heritage. ArtPower even arranged for a choreographer to work in the robotics labs at UCSD. Sometimes students find their first jobs through the connections made via ArtPower.
But the best may be yet to come. In two years, UCSD will open an amphitheater that will provide the opportunity to stage events outdoors. Peimer said: “This allows us to rethink our programming and our season, and offer projects we have never attempted.”
For a schedule of upcoming ArtPower shows, concerts and special events, call the UCSD box office (858) 534-8497 or visit artpower.ucsd.edu
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