This week, we celebrated the end of the eleventh season of Visions and Voices and the 2016–17 academic year with our student coordinators and volunteers—fantastic students who have contributed in integral ways to the success of Visions and Voices. Listening to these students talk about their experiences with Visions and Voices reminded me of how powerful the arts and humanities can be. I am proud that Visions and Voices brings individuals and communities together to experience the arts, explore new ideas, and connect with each other and our shared humanity. In our current political climate, the arts and humanities are more vital than ever. As USC professor and Visions and Voices faculty committee chair Tara McPherson said at one of our events this year, “the arts and humanities help us draw a bright line that connects our past to our present to the dreams for a better future.”
I was also moved by an email I received this week from USC Annenberg professor Sasha Anawalt. A freshman in one of her classes reflected on the event, “Rhythms + Visions.” Commenting on an incredible multimedia performance by Miwa Matreyek, the student noted that while the artist conveyed the damage that humans have caused to this world, she also “created something so beautiful, giving me hope that not all humans have damaged the world, and that there are still people able to create beautiful things to bring into it.”
“Rhythms + Visions” was the last in a thrilling year of events, which featured performances and presentations by many extraordinary artists, including Guatemalan rapper and activist Rebeca Lane; one of today’s most exciting jazz musicians, Kamasi Washington; legendary choreographer William Forsythe; MacArthur “Genius” and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; Transparent’s inimitable Alexandra Billings; prima ballerina Wendy Whelan; the mesmerizing Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca; and so many others!
We will be announcing the 2017–18 season in June, but for now, I am excited to offer a glimpse of what’s to come. We will launch the twelfth season with our annual “SPARK!” event, this time at the brand-new University Village, including performances by L.A. band Chicano Batman, spoken-word artist Javon Johnson, and more! Other highlights include Vancouver’s acclaimed contemporary ballet company, Ballet BC; an evening with poet laureates Juan Felipe Herrera and Dana Gioia; a residency with internationally renowned Mexican artist Graciela Iturbide; a conversation with actor John Cho and USC’s Pulitzer Prize–winning professor Viet Thanh Nguyen; a discussion on the intersections of music, health, and science featuring opera star Renée Fleming and USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio; a dynamic evening of performances by women of color artists who are changing the world through music and poetry, including Maya Jupiter, Alice Bag, and Medusa; a lecture by Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; a Planet of the Apes film retrospective and exhibit; a trip for USC students to see Hamilton; and so much more!
I am grateful to the Visions and Voices staff, volunteers, faculty committee, and deans’ council for their hard work and commitment to Visions and Voices throughout the year and for contributing to an outstanding series of events. I also want to thank Provost Michael Quick and President C. L. Max Nikias for their strong and steadfast support. And I thank the students of USC for supporting and participating in Visions and Voices. This initiative was created for you, and we thank you for making the arts and humanities a critical part of the Trojan experience.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2017, especially Visions and Voices student coordinator Nadja Barlera and Visions and Voices volunteers Maya Anderman, Audrey Emerson, Carol Huang, Julia Lawler, Faith Lee, Jiya Jaisingh, MaryAlice Peng, Kelsey Quan, and Austin Roy! The Visions and Voices team is so proud of you and we will miss you! We hope that the arts and humanities continue to be a vital part of your lives this summer and beyond. And for those who will be returning to USC in the fall or will be joining the university for the first time, we look forward to seeing you on August 17 at “SPARK!” Have a wonderful summer!
May 4, 2017