“We want to use the power of the arts to reshape the world in which we want to live – not merely to replicate the current state of affairs.” This statement from Bryant Keith Alexander, dean of LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts (CFA) speaks to the radical philosophy at the heart of the college’s teaching and practice. Artistic production and media play an active role in shaping the world around us, serving as a mirror to reflect, critique, and recreate contemporary society.
Central to that philosophy is the college’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (DEIA), motivating a major reevaluation of internal processes and teaching practices across all areas of the college. These initiatives within the CFA Theatre Arts program have recently been endorsed by a generous grant from The Hearst Foundations, which will allow the program to deepen its support of students from underrepresented demographic groups, with a particular emphasis on the BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous, people of color).
The grant will impact the Theatre Arts program in three primary ways. These include increasing the diversity of the student body by providing scholarships for minority, low-income, or first-generation students; enhancing the quality and range of programming that highlights experiences of the BIPOC community; and empowering staff and faculty to implement DEIA best practices, by providing in-depth training and the cultivation of an ethic of awareness. “This generous grant from The Hearst Foundations is a testament to the innovative work taking place at CFA to transform the lives and professional preparation of our students,” said Alexander. “We expand access and excellence in the process, thus contributing to our commitment to DEIA in all that we do.”
Paul Dinovitz, executive director of The Hearst Foundations, shared his perspective. “We are proud to partner with outstanding institutions like Loyola Marymount University to help ensure that people of all backgrounds have an opportunity to build healthy, productive, and inspired lives,” he said, expressing the foundations’ interest in funding educational institutions that impactfully prepare students to thrive
in a global society. “The foundations are pleased to support the CFA Theatre Arts department in advancing programming, professional development, and scholarships for individuals from underrepresented populations,” Dinovitz added, indicating The Hearst Foundations’ support of the arts as a cornerstone of society.
Daphnie Sicre, assistant professor of theatre arts, is one of several teacher-scholars who are enacting waves of change within the department. Her own area of specialism is Afro-Latinx performance, and she is determined to demonstrate inclusivity in the material studied in the classroom and performed on stage. “When I was younger, I kept asking – where am I, here? I couldn’t see myself anywhere in mainstream art or performance,” she said. “I never want my students to have to feel that way.” Sicre emphasizes the importance of involving students in the selection of plays to be performed each season, allowing all voices to influence the choice of themes and experiences represented. “We’ve also been reaching out to hire more professors from the BIPOC community as well as CFA alumni who engage directly with our students on productions. It’s so important to create these spaces of interaction and mentorship.” With this in mind, Sicre and her colleague Christopher Murillo were instrumental in spearheading the PRISM Speaker Series at CFA, one of the initiatives that will be expanded with funding from The Hearst Foundations. “Our inaugural season focused on Black theatre artists whose work foregrounds issues of racial and social justice,” she explained. “The series started on Zoom, but now we’re hoping to hold in-person workshops and to bring the program back at a higher level.”
Establishing a pipeline of critically minded and technically adept arts practitioners and communication specialists is central to the vision of CFA, further strengthened by Dean Alexander’s emphasis on the arts as a form of activism. “The service of faith and the promotion of justice is foundational to the LMU mission, and that informs the activist stance, which fuels our work here at CFA,” said Alexander. The combination of critical thinking and creativity lays the groundwork for sustained positive change – but at no small cost. “The high standards that we set for ourselves and for our students at LMU CFA require significant funding,” Alexander continued, “That’s why the grant from The Hearst Foundations is so crucially important.”
Ultimately, a culture’s capacity for innovation arises from contemplation of new and unforeseen possibilities. The “other worlds” that we witness on stage are not only reflections of the lives we imagine – they are also propositions for what we can enact. To this end, an education at CFA proves that creativity is inseparable from political consciousness; envisioning and realizing the world in which we want to live is an ongoing collective act. “We’re working really hard to create an environment where all students can feel they belong,” said Sicre. “Sustaining those initiatives requires substantial ongoing funding. But I know this for sure: at the heart of things, there is change.”
To support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts, contact Kristina Justiniano, senior director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 310.338.5981, and you can give directly to CFA scholarships and programs here.