College of Fine Arts

Arizona Arts launches BIPOC ARTS, an initiative that opens a virtual space for creators, performers, visual artists, and scholars who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. 

The concept is driven by the College of Fine Arts Diversity and Inclusion Committee that consists of Chair Tannis Gibson, the associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusive excellence, with three sub-committee members School of Dance Instructor Marquez Johnson, and student representatives Vaune Suitt and Roxanna Stevens Ibarra. 

The goal is to “highlight outstanding BIPOC student and alumni works from across the four CFA schools, welcoming a broad range of themes, genres, arts perspectives and aesthetic approaches.”

screen grab from Tersoro
Tesoro by Roxanna Stevens Ibarra has been selected to screen at the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, the San Diego Latino Film Festival, the Latino & Native American Film Festival, and the Phoenix Film Festival. Ibarra earned her BFA in film and television production in 2020 and is now working on a Bachelor of Music.

BIPOC ARTS is a call for the celebration of BIPOC students and alumni, said Gibson. 

“We were looking for a way to shift the culture toward a more inclusive experience,” she said. “The inclusive component is at the heart of the committee’s work and mission, and we pursue many projects that steer in that direction.”

The initiative is the result of months of conversations between the committee, Arizona Arts leadership, and multiple groups under the university umbrella. BIPOC ARTS connects to Arizona Arts’ commitment to creating long-term solutions for a wide spectrum of diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges.

“BIPOC ARTS is a place where we can show support for one another, and where we intentionally elevate BIPOC student voices now in order to grow and build more equitable environments for our future,” she said. 

The committee has many students serving who are strongly committed to enhancing Arizona Arts’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

“I have learned so much from our students on the D+I committee,” Gibson said. “Specifically, through their willingness to speak courageously about the real-life challenges that many of our students of color experience in the classroom and daily life.”

Senior BFA Acting major, Vaune Suitt, is one of the students that serves on the sub-committee.

“[In the committee], I feel like my thoughts and opinions are valid,” Suitt said. “Everyone is open to difficult conversations and developing plans for bettering the College of Fine Arts.”

Vaune Suitt performing
Vaune Suitt performing in the School of Theatre, Film & Television’s production of “Still Standing” on the TFTV Outdoor Stage in April. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Suitt says that the BIPOC ARTS initiative is important to taking steps toward progress in the College of Fine Arts.

“Being dedicated to uplifting students of color and giving them equal opportunities is what we need to strive for,” Suitt said. “I hope this initiative uplifts students of color, but this alone will not change anything.”

Johnson said that he hopes the initiative will spark collaboration between artists. 

“Some of the most intriguing and inspiring pieces I have seen have been created by artists in two different aspects of the fine arts,” he said.

BIPOC ARTS serves as a steppingstone toward great change within the College of Fine Arts. The future of the college includes bringing more teachers of color on to the team and including the stories and works of artists and writers of color into the curriculum. 

Both Gibson and Suitt hope that students and audience members alike are inspired by the work that they see from BIPOC ARTS.

“I hope audiences will be drawn in, that they will grasp the importance of the work, and that they will experience the power of art to change hearts and minds,” Gibson said.

Suitt said that this could be a chance for audience members to find art that they may not have known they liked before. 

“I think it is important that we uplift all artists of color right now, and part of that is by supporting their work.”

This initiative will help “Visibility, exposure, retention, and recruitment,” Johnson said.  

“When others see that we have areas that they can potentially be a part of something that fits their artistic mission, their overall college experience will be much more fulfilling that if they were not able to find a community of artists that they can learn and grow from,” he said.

BIPOC ARTS work will be featured on the Arizona Arts website and/or social media platforms including the Arizona Arts YouTube channel. 

If you are interested in submitting your work to be featured on BIPOC ARTS, email Tannis Gibson at