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CAP Guidance: The Arts

Key Takeaways:

In addition to the standard dossier criteria, faculty in the creative arts and research and those involved in the review process should pay particular attention to including the following in faculty dossiers:

  • The candidate should provide context for field expectations and ensure that their most important materials are easily accessible and identifiable in the dossier.
  • The department/research center should provide context for expectations in the field of study.
  • The department/research center should provide external reviewers guidance on the best way of assessing a colleague’s achievements in the field of study.
  • The department/research center should clarify the review process of the field of study; respond to the non-academic nature of any external letters; and make clear how and why the candidate is eligible for the proposed rank and step.
  • The Dean’s letter should provide broader context for how the candidate’s work sits within the larger scope of the arts in general and provide additional context with the arts field in general.


    ­­­­­­In a major research university, with its great variety of ever-evolving disciplines, all academic departments and research units should periodically revisit, update, and communicate their mandates, goals, and criteria for self-evaluation. The arts are an expansive and vital part of the academic mission at UCLA, including, but not limited to, the departments and programs in the School of the Arts & Architecture (SoAA), School of Theater, Film & Television (TFT), and the Herb Alpert School of Music (HASoM). In updating our guidance on the evaluation of contributions to the arts, CAP focuses attention on the contents of the dossier and how these materials can serve as the basis for a productive personnel review. Particular kinds of documentation that shed detailed light on a colleague’s achievement in the arts are essential for dossiers that undergo review by CAP.

    Given the unique attributes and the diversity of the arts at UCLA, the wider campus community needs additional contextual information to understand the value of the contributions that colleagues make to their respective professional fields. Additional information that illuminates and clarifies the specific nature of these contributions to the arts is often included in (a) the candidate’s self-statement, (b) external letters, (c) the departmental ad hoc letter and/or the Chair’s letter, (d) the Dean’s letter, and (e) the exhibits. Below are some common examples of areas that often require additional contextual information for faculty in the arts.

    Field Expectations

    New knowledge in the arts is frequently achieved through the innovative creation of primary materials. The significance of such primary materials, the significance of field-specific recognitions, and/or the expectations of productivity related to different art forms need to be documented in the dossier. Moreover, the candidate’s self-statement and the departmental letter(s) should ordinarily provide context to understand the significance of the candidate’s artistic work and place it in a larger framework within the discipline. Further, the Dean’s letter should provide a broader context that explains where the candidate’s activities are located within the larger scope of the arts in general.

    Review Process

    CAP appreciates that the arts have established rankings relative to various venues, impacts, and recognitions for scholarly activity, research projects, and many different types of creative contributions. For these reasons, it is vital to explain and document in detail such achievements so that they can be understood and critically discussed by faculty members who are not based in the arts. The department letter(s) should clarify the specific review process by which the exhibits included in the dossier was evaluated relative to its field, specialization, and impact. The prestige and selectivity of any contribution to the arts—such as the venue, a prize, press coverage, exhibition, season, program, film festival, award, or review—should be explicit, along with any explanatory, comparative, or contextual information designed to inform a faculty member without a background in the arts. The Dean’s letter should draw attention to such achievements. Special attention to the status, selectivity, or impact of an accomplishment in the arts will provide a clearer sense of the candidate’s attainment and standing. A pause in creative work or low productivity because of larger factors beyond the control of the candidate needs to be specified.

    Exhibits and Supplemental Materials

    The documentation in an artist’s or creative practitioner’s dossier can take many forms, including but not limited to website links, visual and/or audio representations of work (including PDFs, PowerPoint, and MP3 or video files), published work (including PDFs or hardcopies of catalogues, program brochures, stage and screenplays, artist books), and publicity materials. For most artistic and creative forms, the actual work cannot be included in the dossier. CAP appreciates that the review process cannot always capture the special impact of live performance and its connection to the audience. The candidate is responsible for submitting suitable documentation of their work in the dossier. Additional materials should provide support for the main works submitted in the bibliography. In some cases, structuring the exhibits by significance and relevance, rather than by chronology or project, would assist CAP’s review process. Supplemental information about the works’ funding, accomplishment, distribution, and recognition, as applicable, should be described in the dossier. CAP acknowledges that it is especially important to consider the significance of small-scale performances and exhibitions that have appreciable impact on the field of practice. Further, a colleague’s participation in collaborative teamwork on specific projects needs to be documented so that the contribution is properly recognized. Since some candidates in the creative arts who have recently joined our university may be unfamiliar with preparing a dossier for the review process, it is desirable for the academic unit to provide support to ensure that the materials, exhibits, and data summary are presented accurately and inclusively.

    Outside Letters

    Many prominent and respected artists have never held a position in academia. Oftentimes their letters of recommendation adhere to professional or industry norms, not academic norms. The department letter(s) should respond to any aspects of the external letters that speak more to field norms in the arts more than the academic norms that relate to scholarly and creative work in a research university. If letters from artists and arts professionals outside academia do not offer sufficient analysis of the candidate’s work and its standing in the field, one possible solution is to solicit at least one letter from a comparable academic institution.

    Academic History

    CAP fully acknowledges that, since many fields in the arts exist outside the academy, a faculty appointment is not always essential to an artist’s standing in the field. Many creative practitioners come to academia later in their careers and may have limited demonstration of the criteria customarily associated with faculty positions, particularly in relation to university-based teaching and service. If a candidate is less experienced in these areas, a department or research center should explain why the candidate’s achievements to date make them eligible for the rank and step suggested.

    CAP thanks SoAA Associate Dean Lionel Popkin, TFT Associate Dean Suk-Young Kim, and HASoM Associate Dean Jan Baker for their collaborative efforts to address these issues with arts faculty across as well as for their contributions to the development of this guidance.

    Last Updated: December 30, 2023