Aiming for inclusion, the College of Fine Arts expands the Guest Artist Initiative

Anna Lassmann

To expand understanding of underrepresented culture and viewpoints, the College of Fine Arts will now allow its Guest Artist Initiative to accept student proposals.

The initiative allows faculty and students to submit proposals to bring in guest artists of their choice to perform or showcase their work within the College of Fine Arts.

“We are intending to empower students to (bring) projects they think are relevant and will further diversity,” said Andrew Dell’Antonio, associate dean of undergraduate studies for the College of Fine Arts. “We are giving students the opportunity to define how their voices could be heard by others.”

Previously, only College of Fine Arts faculty and staff submitted proposals of guest artists they believed would further diversity and inclusion by being featured at UT. Now, students may also submit proposals for artists they would like to see showcased.

The initiative, which began in 2015 with funding from the Provost’s office, grants each accepted proposal $1,000 to bring the idea to life.

Music studies sophomore Hunter Ruhl, a music studies sophomore said the initiative gives people insight into the lifestyles and arts of other cultures.

“I’m a very strong advocate of learning to understand people across language and cultural barriers, and art can be used to get past those barriers,” Ruhl said.

Each year, the Fine Arts Diversity Committee accepts four to five proposals. This year, they plan to double that number with the inclusion of student proposals.

Examples of guest artists who have been brought in through the initiative include percussionist Elizabeth Sayre, dance company owner Susana Arenas Pedroso, actress Tonya Pinkins and Mark Stewart, an African-American playwright whom Dell’Antonio said brought visibility to performers outside of the mainstream with his UT showcase.

Angel Fernando Jiminez, an arts and entertainment technologies sophomore, said the initiative gives local minority artisans a platform to share their work.

“I’m thinking about local artists and small Spanish and Mexican artists in Austin who are good but don’t have a big way to show their arts, and I think this is a way to allow them to showcase their talent,” Jiminez said.

Dell’Antonio said the initiative helps keep the conversation about inclusion going.

“We want to have a conversation about continuing to include people who don’t feel included,” Dell’Antonio said. “This is an important way to do that.”