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UCI Humanities Hosts Fourth Annual Arts Gala

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UCI’s School of Humanities hosted their annual Humanities Core Arts Gala – featuring over 50 submissions including paintings, sculptures, poetry and short stories – on Friday, Jan. 31, at Humanities Gateway. The arts competition and gala was founded by Humanities Core faculty member Dr. Larisa Castillo in 2016. 

“It came about as a direct result of the increased aggression and polarization in the 2016 presidential election, including the weaponization of race and deeply problematic discourses concerning xenophobia.” Humanities Core professor and co-organizer of the event Dr. Daniel R. Siakel said. “Particularly in a minority serving institution, especially with such a diverse student body as we have here, one of the principle aims was to enable students to work through our course content, which deals with similar issues, with a sense of non-aggression, to be able to have a response to and actually feel what’s going on in the country politically but not in an aggressive way. [Students] would be responding with that activity of non-aggression through the production of art.”

To prompt student participation, competition winners are offered prize money. This year, the third place winner received $150, second place received $250 and the first place winner received $350. 

 For this year, the gala’s theme was “Transformations.” Students are given free rein to submit any piece that they feel correlates with the theme in any artistic medium. Past themes that have corresponded with each year’s course content include “Empire and Its Ruins,” “Tempest” and “The Art of Empire.”

The submissions are judged by a panel of Humanities Core faculty. This year, each piece was judged holistically against all other pieces rather than separating pieces based on their medium. 

“[This year], we were encouraged to evaluate each piece both on its skill but more importantly on how effectively it conveyed meaning. We also took into account how the student explained the meaning of their piece, we used the student’s own evaluations of their artistic process to inform how we experienced and therefore evaluated the different pieces,” Siakel said. 

Out of this year’s submissions, the three winners were paintings. Third place went to an anonymous submission for the acrylic piece “You’re an Animal, second place went to Nicole Lam for the acrylic painting “Lion Girl” and first place went to Reiko Inoue for “Dance of Animals” in watercolor and colored pencil.

Dhanika Pineda is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at