Celine Parreñas Shimizu
(Via SF State)
The Here & Now

‘My dream institution’: UCSC’s new arts dean has been all over the academic map, says this is the magic place

Filmmaker and scholar Celine Parreñas Shimizu comes to UCSC via stops at SF State, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. But her brief previous stop at UCSC showed her a community “so compassionate and full of recognition.” She plans to serve it with her mission to emphasize compassion and social justice.

UC Santa Cruz is ready to face the post-pandemic period with a clean slate in at least one regard: The university has a new dean of its Arts Division.

Filmmaker, writer and scholar Celine Parreñas Shimizu will head UCSC’s Arts Division, beginning July 1.

Shimizu has deftly balanced a career as a filmmaker with a career in academia, each with a focus on sexuality, feminism, the Asian-American experience, and the arenas where those themes intersect.

Her most recent film, “The Celine Archive,” is a documentary that tells the gripping story of Celine Navarro, a Filipina mother accused of adultery and kidnapped in 1932, then buried alive by vigilantes in the Sacramento Delta near Stockton. The film is currently on the festival circuit.

Celine Parreñas Shimizu
Celine Parreñas Shimizu explores the archive at the Filipino American National Historical Society in Stockton with Board Member Chris Castro in her film the Celine Archive.
(Via UCSC)

Shimizu comes to Santa Cruz already steeped in the University of California system, have earned her B.A. at UC Berkeley, and her M.F.A. at UCLA. She was also on the faculty at UC Santa Barbara for 15 years. She earned her Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford, and most recently taught at San Francisco State.

“UC Santa Cruz is my dream institution,” said Shimizu in a Zoom interview this week. “I’ve always been fascinated by how the campus started more than 50 years ago, premised on the idea of progressive and experimental curriculum and pedagogy. That attitude and that experimental approach is in the soil, it’s in the trees, you breathe it in the air.”

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Shimizu’s first experience with UCSC came as a Berkeley undergrad, when she regularly visited Santa Cruz to participate in a woman-of-color film festival. Years later, in 2013, she was a visiting professor at UCSC for a quarter. Several months after that, when her young son died, she said the UCSC community reached out to her in her grief. “The entire film and digital media faculty just wrote me this beautiful letter, which was so compassionate and full of recognition. That’s the kind of community that’s here, and I’m so glad to return to serve that community.”

As an author, Shimizu has written several books including “Straitjacket Sexualities” and “The Hypersexuality of Race,” and she is a regular speaker in forums and events on the subject of sexuality and Asian-American studies.

The Arts Division encompasses a variety of disciplines and departments at UCSC, including Music, Theater Arts, the visual arts, Digital Arts & New Media, Film & Digital Media, and Games & Playable Media.

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Shimizu has deep experience is some of the realms, as for the others, “some I’m not as conversant in, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to immerse myself in them.” She said is looking forward to following her curiosity in the realms of arts outside her expertise and become a guiding resource for those within her area of experience.

“As Dean, I intend to cultivate cultures of compassion,” she said, “to enable community and creativity to take us to the next iteration of arts at the university.”

She said among the themes of her deanship would be “attention to social justice and the highest forms of experimentation in terms of art practice and scholarship.” She wants to focus on technology, the tools it can provide for artists, and for efforts to get those tools in the hands of those who may have ready access to them. She also wants to emphasize solving social problems through the arts.

Shimizu is the fourth Dean of Arts Division since the retirement of long-time dean Edward Houghton in 2007. She follows David Yager, Susan Solt, and interim dean Ted Warburton.

“Not only am I excited,” said Shimizu of her chance to run the Arts Division. “I am so ready.”