$1M grant to help prepare students for impactful careers in the arts

The UCSC entity Moving Image Lab, a new partnership between the Isaac Julien Lab and The Humanities Institute, will receive the prestigious Mellon Foundation funding that will provide the hands-on experience and career-building training in production, curation, and research and publication that distinguishes this project

Portrait of Isaac Julien (photo by Thierry Bal)
Portrait of Isaac Julien (photo by Thierry Bal)
Portrait of Mark Nash
Portrait of Mark Nash
Isaac Julien, Once Again... (Statues Never Die), installation view, Tate Britain, 2023. (P
Isaac Julien, Once Again... (Statues Never Die), installation view, Tate Britain, 2023. (Photo courtesy the artist)
Isaac Julien, Lessons of the Hour, installation view, Tate Britain, 2023. (Photo courtesy
Isaac Julien, Lessons of the Hour, installation view, Tate Britain, 2023. (Photo courtesy the artist)
The University of California, Santa Cruz, is pleased to announce the awarding of a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to fund fine art and moving image research and support exceptional students pursuing impactful careers in the arts under the leadership of distinguished artist, filmmaker, and UCSC distinguished professor Isaac Julien, and his long-time collaborator critic, curator, and UCSC professor Mark Nash.

The grant is to the Moving Image Lab, a new partnership between the Isaac Julien Lab (IJL) and The Humanities Institute (THI) at UC Santa Cruz.

The award will fuel the expansion of the IJL, an incubator for cutting-edge artistic expression, research, and teaching that works with Arts and Humanities division MFA and Ph.D. students interested in the critical practice of filmmaking, image production, curating, archiving, producing, and presenting still and moving image works.

It will enable Julien and Nash—both joint faculty members in the UCSC Arts and Humanities divisions—to create a robust exhibition and curation/research program at venues in the United States and abroad. The body of work produced through this funding will illustrate IJL's vision of the arts as global, socially impactful, and attuned to correcting inequality and injustice.

In addition, the grant will fund graduate student fellowships, offering practical training in production, curation, and research and publication.

Julien and Nash will oversee the project.

"Mellon support provides a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness of the pedagogical work we do, and it will help bring more attention to the next generation of artists, curators and writers," said Julien. "Artistic expression is one way of making meaningful change in our society, and we're very excited about advocating for voices and perspectives that help bring that about."

The fellows will likely be working on cutting-edge art exhibits or publishing novel scholarly work. But the idea of training alongside established artists to build a career in the arts is a traditional one, said Nash. The grant funds will allow him and Julien to hone students' creative skills as well as develop the professional expertise necessary to evolve and succeed as artists, producers, and curators after graduation.

"The core of what we're doing is developing a form of apprenticeship appropriate for 21st-century arts education," said Nash.

Productive partnership

Moving Image Lab (MIL) fellows will focus on one of three areas: production, curation, or research. Fellowships will begin in summer 2024 and will include funding for research, travel, and production; independent study; and stipends. In addition, starting in 2025, fellows will spend a summer at institutions such as the Università Iuav di Venezia in Venice, Italy, a leading European university in the fields of architecture, design, fashion, visual arts, urban and regional planning, and theater.

THI sees this new partnership as a way to advance experimental research and practice, said Irena Polic, THI managing director.

"Institutes sit both inside and outside the university, so they're places where this kind of innovative scholarship can happen," she said. "Our work at THI revolves around three pillars—research excellence, public engagement, and student success—and this project really hits all three."

At the intersection of arts and humanities

MIL fellows will be chosen annually through a rigorous and competitive selection process. As well as participating in Julien's and Nash's projects, fellows will also be mentored on their individual moving image and curation projects for exhibitions organized with the IJL's museum and gallery partners.

Julien's and Nash's work crosses disciplinary boundaries, intersecting not only with art and art history, but also cultural studies, critical race studies, and the history of consciousness. These new fellowships will strengthen the IJL's ability to provide students with interdisciplinary experiences.

The grant underscores the Humanities Division's recognition of the profound connections between the arts and humanities, said Humanities Dean Jasmine Alinder.

"Through the lens of history, culture, and critical inquiry, the arts illuminate the human experience in ways that transcend language and borders," Alinder said. "With this partnership between the Arts and Humanities divisions, students will be empowered to explore the complexities of the human condition and to contribute to a more just and equitable society."

Drawing in diverse new leaders

Part of Moving Image Labs's mission is encouraging and supporting students and artists of diverse backgrounds who are interested in pursuing careers in the global fields of art, media art, moving images, and arts curation and research.

These emerging cultural leaders will reshape how our institutions serve diverse global communities in a post-pandemic, climate-challenged world.

And those leaders—artists and humanists equipped to provide insight into humanity's struggles—are essential, said Dean of the Arts Division Celine Parreñas Shimizu.

"On campus and beyond, Isaac Julien is a staunch advocate of diversity, equity, inclusion, and decolonizing the arts," she said. "Inspirational cultural leaders like him are greatly needed as society grapples with environmental crises and shifting power structures. This is an exceptional investment to help students embark on successful careers as artists, curators, scholars, and cultural leaders, and also a powerful tool to drive enduring systemic change."