With funding from the legacy of the George A.V. Dunning Foundation, $1 million dollars has been dedicated to endow the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts’ BIPOC Initiative. The initiative is to provide ongoing financial support to a wide variety of programs that promote and support DEI issues and commitments in the college. The initiative was created by CFA Dean Bryant Keith Alexander, Ph.D., to increase the visibility of BIPOC artists and artwork within the college; bring BIPOC teacher/artist/scholar/clinicians to campus to engage students through lectures, performances, workshops, and other engagements; and to support deep immersive experiences with BIPOC artists in the diverse cultural communities of the Los Angeles area.
The initiative began as a result of a September 2020 community letter penned by Dean Alexander titled “A Dean’s First Step Towards Action,” constructed as an initial response to the university-wide DEI charge, LMU Black student demands, and the specific activist efforts of CFA BIPOC students. In it, Dean Alexander outlined a series of initiatives as “first steps” to move toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive college community. The college is proud to evidence progress in all areas outlined within that letter and holds the endowment of the BIPOC Initiative as a top accomplishment toward achieving those goals.
A Legacy of Impactful Giving
The philanthropy of George A.V. Dunning, who passed away in March 2021, is legendary throughout Southern California and at LMU, including at the College of Communication and Fine Arts in particular. Within CFA, his generosity is noted with scholarship dollars to the Music Department, and his name is on the George A.V. Dunning Courtyard in the Burns Fine Arts Complex, as one of the contributors to the Thomas P. Kelley Jr. Student Art Gallery, the Music Technology Lab in Lemons Hall, as well as on the Music Library, now located on the lower level of Seaver Hall. He also generously supported LGBTQ+ activities on campus. In recognition of his impact on the university, George A.V. Dunning received an honorary doctorate from LMU in 2014. In addition to the recent allocation to support the BIPOC Initiative, $2.2 million dollars from the Dunning Foundation has been appointed to support the forthcoming plans for the CFA Performing Arts Pavilion. The college is eternally grateful for his lifetime of impactful giving.
Some of the funds from the newly endowed BIPOC Initiative have already gone to support several faculty-led DEI activities, visiting artists and engagements, research in/as creativity, and, most recently, to support the purchase of several powerful pieces of student artwork that represent commitments to DEI activism, and which currently hang in the CFA Academic Advisement Center for Student Success. The latest installment to join the collection is a series of photographic images of the Black Lives Matter protests in the greater Los Angeles area made by studio arts alumni Trevor Jackson ’23, who was also featured in the 2023 LMU Ignite banner campaign.
Jackson’s work, which has received local and regional attention, foregrounds aspects of the civil unrest and activist work in the Black Lives Matter movement. Of his work, Jackson said, “This collection of images documents the period of the George Floyd protests in 2020. Many people protested in the streets as the nation was in disbelief over his tragic death brought on by police violence. People of various ages, races, and socioeconomic status flooded the streets of Los Angeles to demand justice. The drive for change brought together individuals who would never interact in the same space. These pictures, which are part of a collection titled ‘Peace and Protest,’ highlight the emotionally unpolished reality of the movement. My aim was to capture the energy of this historic moment in order to display its unprecedented caliber of social justice. These images stand as a testament to tenacity, resilience, and the power of the people.”
Jackson’s work accompanies several other pieces in the AACSS that reflect the political activism, social consciousness, and faith-inspired work that CFA students are engaged in across all the disciplines within the college. Other student artists featured in the advisement center include Jose Miguel Camacho ’22 (personally purchased, and on loan by the Dean), Ralph Patacsil ’18, John Alving ’21, Carly Zenker ’18, and M.L. Snowden ’74.
A Space Intended to Inspire
Since it opened in fall 2019, the CFA Academic Advisement Center for Student Success has provided a range of services that dynamize the educational experience of students including mapping graduation progress, curriculum, and career counseling. At the conceptualization of the advisement center, which was supported by a series of diverse donors including the Welk Family Foundation, Dean Alexander prioritized the inclusion of CFA student art in the center; specifically, art produced during the time that students were active at the university.
Many of the pieces that currently hang in the center appeared in senior showcases or were selected to appear in the Young Contemporaries Juried Student Exhibition in the Laband Art Gallery, and currently represent a diverse range of disciplines in studio arts: drawing, painting, prints, multimedia, and 3D art. The pieces represent only a sampling of the immense talents of CFA’s art students and are intended to serve as inspiration to all visitors in the space, to contemplate not just on beauty, but the powerful messages that are embedded and made emblematic in the critical and creative efforts of CFA students. The presence of the art reinforces the CFA motto of “communication as art and art as communication” – while capitalizing on the inseparability of the critical and creative to inspire new ways of knowing self in society and reimaging the world.
“Every time I enter the space, I must pause,” reflected Dean Alexander. “I pause to again engage the powerful messaging of the works. Each encounter is an opportunity to discover new nuances of artistic expression that draw me into the narrative of the piece and the politics to which the pieces signal. I am forever impressed by the powerful rhetoric in these artistic expressions and the critical and creative brilliance of our students.”
****The CFA Academic Advisement Center for Student Success is located in St. Robert’s Hall 102