Guide Puts ‘Public’ in Art

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May 2015 – It’s the rare student or visitor at UC Davis who doesn’t take time to pose for a photo with one of the “Eggheads” on campus.

But the egg-shaped, giant bronze heads by the longtime faculty member Robert Arneson are only part of the art that can be seen strolling the campus. Art history graduate students Arielle Hardy, Justina Martino, Piper Milton and Brittany Royer have made these pieces even more accessible by creating the first guide to UC Davis’ public art.

“We wanted something that would be useful and interesting to a wide audience,” Milton says. “Other than the ‘Eggheads,’ most people don’t register or engage with the art on campus, and we hope to change that. All of us had an interest in sculpture, space and landscape, so it fulfilled our scholarly goals as well.”

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The Final Exam Is A Joke

June 2015 – Students in Karma Waltonen’s freshman seminar on stand-up comedy have to do just that. The final exam is a five-minute routine in front of an audience.

While the students want to be hilarious at the final, the class is really about clear and concise writing. Without that, the funny will flop.

Writing funny is a challenge

“They have to come up with unique material that they’re presenting before an audience while also being funny,” says Waltonen, better known as Dr. Karma, a continuing lecturer in the University Writing Program.

“They come in for the fun and wanting to try their hand at comedy, not thinking this is going to be a challenging writing class. Most of them have never presented anything in front of people. I tell them at the end that they’ve done the hardest public speaking they’ll ever have to do.”

Pushing boundaries

“Nothing is off limits, but we talk about how to frame the comments properly,” says Waltonen, who has done stand-up and is also an expert on The Simpsons and edited a just-released book of essays on Margaret Atwood.

“Sometimes a bad word just distracts the audience,” Waltonen says. “They need to use it for a reason. Some are making jokes that are intentionally trying to push the boundaries, and that’s what good comedy often does.”

Usually they find out what works — and what doesn’t — when they try out the material for their classmates.

“There’s immediate feedback from an audience, and that’s usually the best feedback,” she says.

Big audience for the stand-up exam

The final exam — or show, take your pick — is held in a large classroom packed not just with the 15 or so students who are performing, but also with friends, a few parents and siblings. The room is buzzing loudly even before the fledgling comics send the jokes flying.

“They told me they’re having a final in the next room,” Waltonen says. “I told them, ‘So are we — and it’s going to be loud.’”

Mondo Nano: Deep Fun With Games


Colin Milburn

May 2015 – Professor Colin Milburn takes readers in his new book on a video game-inspired journey through a world that is part science, part science fiction and mostly the place where the two converge.

In Mondo Nano: Fun and Games in the World of Digital Matter (Duke University Press), Milburn, who holds the Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities, opens with the world’s smallest stop-motion film, “A Boy and His Atom.”

Much of the book is connected to nanotechnology — the study and application of extremely small things. But there’s also a lot of “mondo” — slang for extreme, big and striking, with connotations of being cool.

Nanotechnology, comic books and avatars Continue reading

Spotlight on UC Davis’ Artistic Legacy

September 2014 – During the 1960s, UC Davis was a place where some of the nation’s most adventuresome artists worked and taught, thriving in a protected hothouse of creativity.


“California Artist” by Robert Arneson

This artistic flowering is in the spotlight again in the new exhibition “Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California” at the Oakland Museum of California. It examines how the university became a force in contemporary art in California and beyond with pioneering art department faculty members Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Roy De Forest and Manuel Neri, and students Bruce Nauman, Deborah Butterfield, Peter Vandenberge and David Gilhooly.

“Davis was a crucible and cradle of so many important developments,” says Drew Johnson, the museum curator of photography and visual culture and one of the curators of the exhibition. “It offered a remarkable set of circumstances where the artists had tremendous freedom.”

The joint exhibition brings together works from its two organizers, the Oakland Museum of California and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art— their first collaboration, in fact. Continue reading

Alumna Ann E. Pitzer makes major donation for classroom and recital hall


November 2014 – A new classroom and recital hall building at the University of California, Davis, will be named the Ann E. Pitzer Center to honor an alumna who donated $5 million toward the building. The gift from the late Ann E. Pitzer and the naming were announced Thursday (Nov. 13) evening at a reception for the UC Davis Foundation Board and guests.

Pitzer, a well-known California philanthropist, graduated from UC Davis in 1958 with a degree in home economics and was a longtime and active supporter of the university. She died on Oct.15.

“Ann was a tremendous alumna and friend of UC Davis who always said her motivation for giving to UC Davis was to ensure our students would have the same great experience at UC Davis that she had,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said. “This building, which will provide important classroom space to all UC Davis students, is a shining example of Ann’s lasting legacy, her commitment to her alma mater and to all Aggie students, and her love of music.” Continue reading

Students are Runway Ready

student-working-on-fashion-in-class_March 2015 – Sewing machines click and hum, scissors whip through fabric and somber gray mannequins are brought to life as they’re draped in outfits of red, blue, purple and white. It’s the Cruess Hall sewing lab at UC Davis — “Project Runway,” but without all the drama.

The 20 students in the studio are all design majors, most near graduation, and, combined, the four-to-six-piece fashion collection each creates during the class will be the centerpiece of the UC Davis Picnic Day Fashion Show April 18.

Since the Fashion Show started 28 years ago as an independent study group, it has become one of Picnic Day’s most popular events. Then, in 2005, design professor Susan Avila created the class, DES 179 “Signature Collection,” to put the show together. This is the first year Avila, now Department of Design chair, hasn’t taught the class.

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Jeffrey Thomas: Big on Bach


April 2014 – If you’re blown away by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach — or want to be — Jeffrey Thomas is the man to see.

Thomas, professor of music at UC Davis, is artistic and music director of the American Bach Soloists, which just kicked off a weeklong festival that provides a total Bach immersion.

The festival , which runs through July 20 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, traces Bach’s influences with performances of music by Antonio Vivaldi, Giovanni Pergolesi, Georg Melchior Hoffmann and Dieterich Buxtehude as well as Bach’s Mass in B Minor. That mass is considered one of the most important works in Western music.

“We focus on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to a degree that is far beyond the pursuits of any other historically informed performance ensemble in the country,” said Thomas, who leads several choruses and teaches choral conducting and early music at UC Davis.

“While other very fine early music ensembles typically present concerts that offer a fairly broad range of music, we have kept our focus on our namesake.” Continue reading

Festival showcases riches and reach of UC Davis music department

January 2015 – The University of California, Davis, will be new music central for the Music and Words Festival Jan. 27-31. The festival exploring the intersection of text and sound will include concerts of landmark works from the last 50 years and new pieces by emerging composers, along with residences by internationally known musicians. Music and Words is a collaboration between the UC Davis Department of Music, and the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

“The festival allows us to present important contemporary works and premieres of new works while broadening the reach of the UC Davis music program,” said composer Sam Nichols, a lecturer in the music department and festival co-director. “It’s a way for us to show the important work the music department is doing and connect the department and our students to the wider musical world.”

Among the performances:

  • Three concerts by the acclaimed group Sō Percussion.
  • Performances of three pieces by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Melinda Wagner, festival composer-in-residence.
  • Luciano Berio’s rarely heard Sinfonia and Wagner’s Pulitzer-winning piece performed by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra.
  • A rare regional performance by Bob Ostertag, sound pioneer and cinema and technocultural studies professor.

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