Unleashing Artists’ Creativity

Matt Bailey (Photo: Steve Zylius/UCI)
By Christine Byrd

Matt Bailey, MBA ’12, remembers how hard it was to be an artist on a student budget. He constantly needed film, photo paper, canvas and paints – and all of that was expensive, especially on top of tuition and living costs. Sometimes he just couldn’t afford the supplies.

“It was overwhelming,” Bailey says.

Three decades later, Bailey hopes to alleviate similar financial pressures for UC Irvine’s emerging artists with a $125,000 gift to support scholarship and creative research. Half of the gift will create The Bailey Scholarship in Art to annually support five talented students in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts with $2,500 to defray the cost of fees for art courses and materials.

“I want to encourage the next generation of art makers, so that they can explore, innovate and do interesting projects, without the cost of art supplies being a hindrance,” Bailey says.

This is especially important at UC Irvine, where almost half of undergraduates are the first in their family to attend college and may feel pressure to go into a field that’s perceived as more lucrative. But the “starving artist” is not the only kind of artist – and Bailey wants potential art students to know that, too.

“There certainly are many ways to fold creative experience into a career that pays very well,” he says. “The things I learned in art school went well beyond just the output or immediate career opportunities. It gave me a way to think about culture and the world around me that led to my entrepreneurial efforts later in life.”

Bailey has launched several creative businesses, including a software company that enabled artists to market their work online, and earned an MBA from the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, where he serves as adjunct faculty. He believes UC Irvine’s collaborative spirit fuels creativity not only in the arts but across disciplines.

I want to encourage the next generation of art makers, so that they can explore, innovate and do interesting projects, without the cost of art supplies being a hindrance.

“If an artist wants to collaborate with a computer science student, that’s possible at UC Irvine in a way that it wouldn’t be at a lot of other places,” Bailey says.

A prime example: Associate Professor of Art Jesse Colin Jackson’s Speculative Prototyping Lab uses 3-D printers and other fabrication tools commonly found in engineering labs to create technology-inspired artwork. Jackson’s most iconic work, “Marching Cubes,” is based on shapes and algorithms computers in the 1980s used to display graphics. It’s been part of interactive exhibits all over the world – inspiring fascination from kids and adults, like Bailey.

“It shows a thoughtfulness and awareness to the truly interesting part of technology, not just new but old technology, too, and how that can be used in some very contemporary types of art making,” says Bailey.

At least 20 students have spent a quarter or longer working in the lab developing creative projects that range from a startup that recycled plastics for its creations, to pedal-powered light displays. Not all of them are art students, either – one of the current lab managers is a math major.

While half of Bailey’s gift creates an undergraduate art scholarship, the remainder will support the Speculative Prototyping Lab, allowing the purchase of additional fabrication equipment, such as a large laser cutter.

“We’ve always operated year-to-year,” explains Jackson. “My team and I are so excited about the runway for excellence that this gift provides. We are finally able to work with an eye towards the future.”

Ultimately, Bailey hopes his gift to support scholarships and the lab will unleash the creativity of UC Irvine artists.

“Orange County often gets eclipsed by big cities as a center for the arts,” says Bailey. “But if we can break out of the safe aesthetic default here — and we’ve been moving toward that steadily over the last 30 years — I see a lot of possibilities for the future.”

To learn more about ways to support CTSA, contact Sarah Strozza, Senior Director of Development, at 949-824-0629 or sstrozza@uci.edu.

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CONNECT - Spring 2023

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