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Kristy Edmunds takes up directorship at UCLA Live

Fiona Mackrell

UCLA Live: Earlier this month, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture announced that Kristy Edmunds was ‘packing for LA’ in a move that has got a lot of people talking. She takes up the position of executive and artistic director of UCLA Live from 1 May 2011, will ‘transition’ through the summer, and moves in August.
Kristy Edmunds takes up directorship at UCLA Live
Earlier this month, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture announced that Kristy Edmunds was ‘packing for LA’ in a move that has got a lot of people talking. She takes up the position of executive and artistic director of UCLA Live from 1 May 2011, will ‘transition’ through the summer, and moves in August. ‘She will provide leadership for all ongoing UCLA Live activities and begin the planning process for the 2012–13 UCLA Live season immediately,’ says the statement. UCLA Live, the UCLA annual arts program that stretches across the US academic year has been financially struggling, leading to the apparently sudden departure of the previous director David Sefton. In a curious swap, he’s now heading to Adelaide. The UCLA Live release goes: Edmunds comes to UCLA Live from Australia's University of Melbourne, where in 2008 she was appointed head of the new School of Performing Arts in the Victorian College of the Arts and a year later was named deputy dean of the college. She has served concurrently as consulting artistic director for the Park Avenue Armory performing arts space in New York City. From 2005 through 2008, Edmunds held the prestigious position of artistic director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and was the first artistic director of the festival to serve a four-year term. That sums up some pretty tumultuous years. As artistic director of MIAF Edmunds had to deal with quite a bit of resistance to her 'cutting-edge and cross-disciplinary' programming, particularly from the Age’s Robin Usher back in 2006, perhaps as the first ‘foreigner’ (she’s American) to hold the job since 1986. Yet, there were plenty of plaudits by the end of her four years at the helm. From MIAF she went on to the VCA as Head of the new School of Performing Arts in what was deemed at the time as a coup fulfilling their wildest dreams. But then, a year later, in January 2010 she was appointed Deputy Dean. Edmunds felt some heat from Save VCA campaigning for not opposing the imposition of the Melbourne-model on the VCA, as part of the merger with the University of Melbourne, a deal she said possibly quite rightly was done before she got there. Even so, she left after only 9 months in the job and a few weeks after Dean Sharman Pretty, citing according to Andrew Crook in Crikey, the increasing responsibilities of her consulting role for the Park Avenue Armory in New York. And now she heads back to the States. Seemingly aware that she’s stepping into yet another challenging role where the expectations are exceedingly high. Yet typically enthusiastic, in an article in the Los Angles Times, Edmunds says she’s ‘pretty inspired, but that doesn't mean I'm not actively aware of the challenges and difficulties.’ As Christopher Waterman, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture says in the UCLA statement: "Kristy Edmunds is a creative and resourceful artistic director and curator, well known and respected in the international arts community for programs that empower artists and entertain audiences, We are confident that her exciting contemporary vision and her proven commitment to sustainable arts cultivation will expand UCLA Live, enrich the UCLA community and enhance the overall Los Angeles performing arts landscape." In the same statement Edmunds says: "There is a fantastic momentum swirling in the Los Angeles arts scene which has clearly been generated from the longstanding efforts of many individuals, artists and organizations. The thought of contributing to this atmosphere while leading the next phase of UCLA Live's evolution is authentically inspiring. Conjoining an active and diverse local scene with a national and international arts dialogue, all within the culture of an incredible research university, is a heady mix indeed. It is a major challenge and one with dizzying potential for artists and audiences." "UCLA Live has a vital and diverse heritage and is known for embracing classical, contemporary, local, global, established and emerging artists," Edmunds said. "We are at an important juncture, and I am exhilarated by what we can create and further develop over the upcoming years." At least, there are plenty on the West Coast excited that she’s coming back, particularly where she started in Portland. Edmunds was founding executive and artistic director of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) and the Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival in Portland. "It became clear very quickly that Kristy Edmunds has both the leadership skills and aesthetic sensibility to take the helm of a great performing arts program in a world-class city, especially during a transformative period — thus her qualities are key to the growth and longevity of UCLA Live," said Alan Schwartz, president of UCLA Live's Royce Center Circle board and a member of the search committee for a new director. "The board — and its leadership — is looking forward to working alongside Kristy as we move forward." And there will be many curious observers watching.

About the author

Fiona Mackrell is a Melbourne based freelancer. You can follow her at @McFifi or check out www.fionamackrell.com

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