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UCLA Magazine Fall 2004
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Fall 2004
Why Art Matters
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And third is the L.A. NOW project. This project, led by Professor of Architecture and Urban Design Thom Mayne, focuses on downtown Los Angeles. The first in a series of “wall-less classroom” initiatives, it fosters fresh thinking about current architectural design, art and cultural issues of public concern.

Among the most influential urban architects, Mayne initiated this project to share his professional experience with students and to bring their combined intelligence to bear on real public concerns. It developed into a collaboration between UCLA and several other schools — the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles — and is a model of how a city’s native resources can benefit the community at large. The exhibitions mounted by the L.A. NOW team have been published in two volumes, the first an imaginative and beautifully designed survey of the physical, ecological and social character of our sprawling metropolis, and the second a compelling presentation of seven proposals for re-envisioning downtown Los Angeles.

It is evident from these examples that the true value of the arts and of art-making in the university context flows from the fact that our programs combine the traditional strengths of the academy, where students learn about the arts, and the conservatory, where students learn how to make art, to design, to choreograph, to compose. We agree with the pragmatic philosopher John Dewey that the division between theory and practice — or mind and body, if you will — has not had an entirely positive effect on our educational system or even our civilization. Although some persist in seeing the arts as an exalted but essentially impractical aspect of civilization — icing on the cake, as it were — I would argue that training in the arts can have the most pragmatic consequences.

The February 2004 issue of the Harvard Business Review featured a story titled “The M.F.A. is the New M.B.A.,” which reported on the increasing competitiveness in corporate hiring of M.F.A.s versus traditional business-school graduates. The author, Daniel Pinks, writes that “the demand for artistic aptitude is surging” in the business world: “Getting admitted to Harvard Business School is a cinch. At least that’s what several hundred people must have thought last year after they applied to the graduate program of the UCLA Department of Art — and didn’t get in. While Harvard’s M.B.A. program admitted about 10 percent of its applicants, UCLA’s fine-arts graduate [programs] admitted only 3 percent. Why? An arts degree is now perhaps the hottest credential in the world of business. Corporate recruiters have begun visiting the top arts grad schools … in search of talent.”

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