UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences to open new, off campus galleries

The state-of-the-art facility will showcase the Institute of the Arts and Sciences’ groundbreaking exhibitions and programs, highlighting the work of major national and international artists working to address the most pressing issues of our day at the intersection of the arts and social justice

The galleries at the IAS are classrooms and laboratories for faculty and students. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Dr. Rachel Nelson is director and chief curator of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences. She teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at UC Santa Cruz. (Photo by Nick Gonzalez)
Ashley Hunt, an artist and writer based in Los Angeles, is pictured with some of the pieces that comprise his exhibit at the IAS, Degrees of Visibility. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

The city of Santa Cruz and California’s Central Coast will be getting a major new art space this February when UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences—with its distinctive vision of the arts at the forefront of social justice—opens the doors to its new off-campus, state-of-the-art galleries on the west side of Santa Cruz. The 15,000-square-foot building boasts three climate-controlled galleries, a screening room, and event space, all designed to advance more broadly UC Santa Cruz’s commitment to the role of art and creative thinking in transforming society. 

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) is recognized nationally for cutting edge exhibitions and events that grapple with some of the most critical dilemmas of our time including mass incarceration, anti-racism, climate change, and issues of borders and belonging. Since its founding within UCSC’s Division of the Arts in 2014, the IAS has been an impactful innovator in the arts and for social justice, demonstrating how art can be a catalyst for social change. The trailblazing and visionary nature of the arts programming at the IAS has found eager audiences and drawn wide support, including an almost $2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation in 2021. 

“The addition of these new galleries brings to fruition the latest advancement of the IAS and the university as conveners of artists, creators, and thought leaders advancing social and racial justice,” says UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “This new space and IAS’s expansion of programs will enable the campus and the community to think in new ways about the challenges we face and how to address them.”

The IAS will inaugurate its new space with a robust schedule of exhibitions connected to its major public scholarship program, Visualizing Abolition, the nation’s most ambitious and sustained art and prison abolition initiative and an exemplar of IAS’s interdisciplinary approach that brings the arts together with the sciences, social sciences, and humanities in a wide-ranging, dynamic program. Led by UCSC Feminist Studies Associate Professor Gina Dent, and Rachel Nelson, IAS Director, the Mellon Foundation-funded program is designed to shift the social attachment to prisons through art and education and to foster creative research.

Upcoming exhibitions for 2023 include:

February 5-April 16, 2023

  • Seeing and Seen, an exhibition of the work of 2022 MacArthur Fellow and indigenous artist Sky Hopinka, that explores both the relationships between the carceral and settler colonial history of the United States—and also that which evades those systems of capture. Presented in collaboration with the San José Museum of Art.
  • Degrees of Visibility by artist and activist Ashley Hunt, an exhibition that examines the landscapes that surround prisons, jails, and detention centers throughout the United States and its territories. 

April 28-September 3, 2023

  • Bay Area artist Sadie Barnette’s Family Business, an exploration of the carceral state’s reach into the intimate world of the family. Presented in collaboration with the San José Museum of Art.
  • Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas’s The Blessings of the Mystery, a series of installations that crystallize the artists’ research into the connections and tensions between the cultural, scientific, industrial, and socio-political forces that shape landscapes from Santa Cruz to West Texas.

September 22, 2023-March 24, 2024

  • A solo exhibition of the work of Maria Gaspar, an interdisciplinary artist negotiating the politics of location through installation, sculpture, sound, and performance.
  • An exhibition of the work of Forensic Architecture, a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, investigating human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations. Presented in collaboration with the San José Museum of Art.

“These exhibitions exemplify our unique approach to the arts,” explains Nelson. “We are committed to presenting aesthetically ambitious and socially engaged artworks which are both envisioning and making more just worlds.”

Off-site exhibitions, such as the ongoing installation at the Davenport Jail, The Writing on the Wall by artist Hank Willis Thomas and scholar Dr. Baz Dreisinger, will also establish local connections to issues of global importance such as the prison system’s role in managing immigration and labor.

The IAS Galleries will be an accessible gateway to the university, serving the community directly with public programming that includes artist talks, performances, K-12 education programs, community-outreach initiatives, and First Friday events. Faculty-led projects will bring thinkers and creatives together for conferences, workshops, and other projects that will be open to the public, and the new space will create enriching experiential learning and research opportunities for UCSC students.

“We fervently believe that the arts can be transformative, bringing people together to collectively work for equitability and to advance excellence,” says UCSC Arts Division Dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu. “The new galleries will be a gathering place for our community, with exhibitions and programming at the forefront of impactful interventions in art, social justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The new home allows the IAS to deepen key relationships with a wide range of museums, educational institutions, and collections throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Developing multi-sited exhibitions and programming with partners, including its longtime collaborators San José Museum of Art and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), the IAS will advance the region as a destination for cutting edge arts programming and new modes of experiential and inclusive arts education.

“The Institute of the Arts and Sciences has been an important collaborator of the MAH, working with us to present notable artists and exhibitions that enliven our community,” says Robb Woulfe, Executive Director, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. “We are thrilled to continue this partnership as they move into new galleries, helping make Santa Cruz an ever more vibrant destination for arts, culture, and creativity.”


The Institute of the Arts and Sciences Galleries are located at 100 Panetta Avenue, on the westside of Santa Cruz and are open Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm-5pm. Admission is free to the public. More information at https://ias.ucsc.edu/.