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A Look Back on Clayton Garrison August 17, 2015

Posted by ucisca in Faculty, Photographs, Uncategorized, University Archives.
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Staff at UCI Special Collections and Archives were sad to learn that Clayton Garrison, founding dean of UCI’s School of Fine Arts, passed away on July 27, 2015. Garrison once recalled in 1974 that he was attracted to Irvine because it was an “opportunity to initiate, in a new situation, a program that was different from any other programs in the fine arts on a University of California campus.” And so, when he joined UCI in 1964, he set out to build a “studio- and performance-centered” fine arts program at the undergraduate level.

To him, “starting a whole school involving art, dance, drama, music, and film with only five faculty members was a rare opportunity.” Garrison recruited some of the top artists in their field to join the School of the Fine Arts’ founding faculty including Eugene Loring who was appointed Chairman of Dance, and who introduced ballet as a study in the University of California curriculum. Robert Cohen, who Garrison directed in a Shakespeare play at UC Berkeley, was appointed chair of UCI’s Drama Department. In 1964, Garrison appointed John Coplans as Director of the University Art Gallery. Coplans, editor for Artforum magazine, was well connected with the contemporary art world, and he influenced Garrison by suggesting new faculty recruits. One of the first art professors Coplans recruited was Tony DeLap, and the faculty grew to include Larry Bell, Ed Bereal, Vija Celmins, Ron Davis, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, Philip Leider, John Mason, Ed Moses, Barbara Rose, and Alan Solomon.

Garrison also invited renowned artists, including David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, to serve as guest lecturers and teachers at what he believed was a truly interdisciplinary fine arts program.

Garrison served as dean of the school for its first 17 years, during which he did everything from direct plays, operas and musicals, to choreograph stage, teach, help establish UCI’s esteemed M.F.A programs, and more. After retiring as dean, he spent nine years teaching acting and running UCI’s month long Music Theater Program in New York. The projects that Garrison helped produce at the School of Fine Arts, now known as the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and beyond were well-received with high praise from the campus and region alike.

Prior to his appointment at UCI, Garrison was Chair of the Department of Drama and Vice Chair of the Division of Humanities at UC Riverside. He also taught at UC Santa Barbara and the Laguna College of Art + Design.

The UCI Special Collections and Archives is pleased to house Clayton Garrison’s collection documenting his work in theater at UCI, New York, and internationally.

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