January 9, 2002
Dean’s goals have no limits
By Steven Jones
USC Daily Trojan Staff Writer
Speech: Fine arts official emphasizes ambition, travel and an open mind
Aim sky-high. Speaking at the Tyler Environmental Prize Pavilion, Ruth Weisberg, dean of the School of Fine Arts, shares her motivation and advice.
Ruth Weisberg, the dean of USC’s School of Fine Arts, takes her responsibility to change the world seriously.
“I’m of that generation that was told we could do everything,” she said in her speech Wednesday for the “What Matters to Me and Why” series, sponsored by the Academic Culture Initiative at Tyler Environmental Prize Pavilion.
At USC, she had found a place where she could take full advantage of her opportunities, she said.
“One of the things I love about USC is that we’ve tried to build (changing the world) into the fabric of the community,” she said.
She also focused on the importance of an open mind when dealing with different people and places. Weisberg said her prescription for ensuring continual learning is to have experiences that are not predictable.
Citing her own extensive travels in Europe, she spoke of the need for an open-minded approach to life. In particular, she encouraged spontaneity when planning trips rather than following well-worn paths.
“I really worry about the tendency toward the second- and third-hand experience instead of the first-hand encounter,” she said, criticizing close reliance on tours and guidebooks.
Weisberg’s dual-residence childhood is a further example of hands-on experiences, she said. She was raised in a predominately Jewish Chicago neighborhood, but her family kept a summer home in the Indiana sand dunes.
The Indiana community did not have electricity or running water and gave her the sense of being at one in the natural world, she said.
During the school year, Weisberg said the urban environment had an equally profound influence. Her father was an architect who shared his sense of art’s purpose with her, which was that the visual was not purely decorational.
“(The visual) might startle you,” she said. It might ask hard questions.”
By taking weekly classes at the Chicago Art Institute, she developed her passion for all artistic mediums.
“There’s a whole part of me that you’re not getting to know unless you see my work,” she said.
Weisberg has an art studio in Venice and her work has been featured in museums around the country.
She credited the teachers who supported her development, but also cautioned that the most supportive person is not always the least critical.
Most of the roughly 45 attendees appreciated Weisberg’s honesty.
“It was refreshing to hear something so personal, willing to share her life,” said Haley Thompson, a senior majoring in psychology and linguistics.
Copyright 2002 by the Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Vol. 145, No. 03 (Thursday, January 10, 2002), on page 1.