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Mar. 30, 2020

Dear Colleagues:  

Greetings to the UNLV College of Fine Arts! With this message I am inaugurating a tradition of Monday Messages, shared at the beginning of each week during the time of remote teaching, learning and isolation. Each week I will discuss some thoughts and ideas, and most importantly, I will let you know that I am thinking about each and every one of you. I am hoping that you are well and that your experiences have been enriching. That said, this is a very challenging time.  Perhaps you are separated from your loved ones. You have likely had to put some plans on hold. Life has radically shifted in a startlingly short period of time, and you are being asked to work in an unfamiliar way. Many of us may be experiencing loneliness and asking a perfectly reasonable question about how long this remote living will last. It would be fair to say, even as we hear frequent estimates and forecasting, that no one really knows the answer to that question.  

How do we make meaning of this very unusual time? I have been pondering the richness that may well come from this incredibly strange life experience. I am energized by the time and opportunity to reflect and think deeply in a way that is not always possible in our normally fast-paced lives.  

In the Review section of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Jamil Zaki, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, and author of The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in the Fractured World, wrote that “Covid-19 has sparked a global epidemic of kindness.”  We in the College of Fine Arts have experienced this phenomenon during the last week, a period in which we received very generous gifts from our donors.  Dr. Zaki also adds: “The crisis offers a chance to build a new normal.” I am particularly heartened by that sentiment. I believe that a time of extreme disruption – which this certainly is – can bring new thinking, new ideas, new inspiration, positive change, and an openness to flexibility, inventiveness, aspiration and a sense of optimism and hope for a bright future.  

In this spirit I wanted to share with you that a conversation is starting to build momentum around the idea of a curated online arts series from the College of Fine Arts – with the working title: UNLV Arts: Transforming the Global Community through Collaboration, Scholarship and Innovation. You may notice that this language is taken directly from the College’s strategic planning mission statement. The Barrick Museum of Art has received considerable attention for its remote community event: a global exhibition called A Drawing a Day Keeps the Pandemic Away.  There are many other creative and worthy projects that are on the horizon in our college.  

Many thanks to all of you for the great work you are doing. Faculty, you are also exceptional educational leaders in this way: many of our students, as we well know, are the first in their families to go to college. By working so hard to keep their educational aspirations going at this time, you are helping them and their families hold on to the American dream of getting a university education. This is a remarkable contribution to our students and, indeed, to society.  

Please know that I am here to help anyone in the College of Fine Arts, however possible, whenever I am needed.

Warmest wishes to all,

Nancy J. Uscher
Dean, UNLV College of Fine Arts