The building of the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts is rooted in history, dating back to 1895 when it was built as a Rouse department store and celebrated as an architectural jewel of Riverside.
But what goes on inside those walls today is a shining example of what the thought-exchange meccas of the future could be. Opened in 2010 (and celebrating its fifth anniversary this October), the center, in conjunction with its sister spaces in the UC Riverside ARTSblock, the Sweeney Art Gallery and the California Museum of Photography, has become a state-of-the-art playground for artists melding a multitude of disciplines. Here, traditional academic borders seem like a relic.
“Art does not stand outside of society but really is an extension of all the multivarious issues that society is about,” says Jonathan Green, professor of art history and executive director of ARTSblock. “We do a lot of work that’s political. We do a lot of work that has scientific basis. Art is an extension of the human condition and human exploration.”
Science is often central to the discourse. In 2013, “Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration” was the first contemporary art exhibition in the United States to showcase artists and organizations eyeing civilian space travel, an idea that has become more than sci-fi fantasy in recent years. According to co-curator Tyler Stallings, artistic director of the Culver Center of the Arts and director of Sweeney Art Gallery, the exhibitors did more than present visual interpretations and metaphors. “They were all working towards actually doing something in space, whether they were able to get there or not, as opposed to just letting it be like a painting about the idea,” he says. “They were doing everything from developing new technologies to working with scientists at NASA.”
In “Different Particles & Indeterminate States: New Monumental Drawings by Amy Myers,” the artist used charcoal, graphite and ink on paper to make intricate, monumental drawings that merge the microcosmic with the macrocosmic in a visionary blending of art, mathematics and physics.
Earlier this year, “Adriana Salazar: Perpetuity” featured sculptures and installations in which formerly live creatures — fallen plants, taxidermy animals — were mechanically re-animated, blurring the definition of what is alive. “Even in biology, this definition is something that is constantly debated and put to the test,” Salazar told ARTSblock. “Is a rock something that is alive? Is the process of death the same as the process of decay? Are we dying from the moment we are born?” The exhibition was presented in collaboration with UCR’s Immortality Project, a multiyear project to study the science, philosophy and theology of immortality. The project culminated in a capstone conference held at the Culver Center in May.
“We want to make Riverside the center of a conversation about exploring the world,” Stallings says. “The tension between the past and the present and some hint of where we’re going in the future is embedded here.”
3824 Main St.
Riverside, California 92501
Telephone: (951) 827-4787
Tuesday to Saturday: noon to 5 p.m.
6 to 9 p.m. (free admission)
UCR ARTSblock Admission:
General admission: $3
Seniors (60+): free
Students with ID: free
Children under 12: free
Price includes admission to Sweeney Art Gallery, Culver Center of the Arts and California Museum of Photography