Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

The Arts and Culture Signature Program emphasizes a globally-minded approach to the creative process that honors the complexity and diversity of our students’ everyday experiences. We embrace the arts as a unique access point for a broader exploration of the role that culture plays in our lives and in the world, as well as an opportunity to help us communicate across barriers of language, politics, and divergent ways of learning. We celebrate individual agency, collaboration, inquiry, and reflection as necessary components of constructive and transformational global, social, and existential change.


Students at all levels of experience, from beginner to advanced practitioner, have the opportunity to contribute to campus performances and exhibitions through participation in dance, music, theatre, literary arts, visual arts, and media arts. Our exceptional arts faculty is comprised of world-class professionals, all of whom are actively contributing to their respective fields. These instructors are dedicated to helping students refine their unique interests while also encouraging them to explore new genres and practices and to make connections across subject areas.
While the IB Arts classes require a rigorous and daily academic commitment to a specific arts area, these classes are supported and enhanced by our performance-based Experiential Education (ExEd) offerings. Students may participate in Arts and Culture courses and workshops as their interest and time allows, regardless of their chosen IB subjects. The ExEd program also creates space for students to participate in more than one arts area if they wish. Students interested in arts leadership participate in a weekly leadership seminar, in which they discuss philosophy and practice in the arts, with applications in policy and advocacy that inform our work within the context of the broader UWC mission. Student leadership is an integral part of our program, and it is the driving force behind many of our community-wide cultural events.


"Our world needs leaders who know, understand, and can collaborate with one another. And who are inspired to make a difference."


Students produce Cultural Day Shows using a larger motif to organize performance content. Shows are elaborate productions featuring dance, music, skits, and poetry and are open to the public. For more information on the next UWC-USA Cultural Day Show, please refer to our calendar.

Guiding Principles

Global Arts for an Interconnected WorldThe arts exist in a distinct and ever-changing sociopolitical and historical landscape, and they often serve as first encounters with unfamiliar cultural ideas....

Arts and Culture

UWC-USA students learn to see the world differently and bridge differences through the arts and the study of culture.

“I’ve learned that it is my right to call myself a musician and an artist, and that it is okay for me to be the level I am at.” – Tawanda Manika (Zimbabwe ’20)

With several formal performance ensembles, various student-directed bands, solo opportunities, and audio engineering classes, the UWC-USA music program features an expansive array of genres and serves over half of the student population.  We regularly present guest artists of global genres, and we have an extensive and growing collection of instruments from around the world that are available for student use. Our professional recording studio supports independent student projects and features a full-length department CD every year to showcase our work.

“Dancing at UWC makes me step out of my comfort zone and explore more potential possibility. It teaches me how to respect my emotion and power in my body.” ~ Ying Han (China ’20)

The UWC-USA Dance program includes the IB Dance course, ExEd ensemble courses, and community workshops. Dance Ensemble is open to all interested students and is split into two levels, one of which is open to beginners. The ensemble is almost entirely student-run, with student leadership roles in teaching, choreography, and concept development. The program culminates in a full-length performance in April that reaches audiences of over 300 people in the town of Las Vegas, NM. Dance students attend performances and participate in workshops and masterclasses by guest artists such as Mark Morris Dance Company, Bodytraffic, Pilobolus, and Alvin Ailey II. Additionally, all students have the opportunity to participate in the Dance Denver program, a popular Project Week trip that offers intensive instruction in several classical and contemporary dance genres and includes service activities in the Denver area.


“As a student within the IB Visual Arts department, I take advantage of the Jewelry Making ExEd to enhance my sculptural work. Through my exploration with metal workshopping I am able to combine my passion for elegant accessorizing and avant-garde, three-dimensional art. My artistic process and internal motivation continues to evolve and intensify amidst my hands-on and theoretically questioning disciplines.” ~ Ian Porterfield (USA ’19)

The IB Art program encourages students of all levels to develop and refine skills in a variety of media and supports creative exploration of diverse content. Student work ranges from painting, sculpting, and 3D media to more avante-garde installations that take advantage of props such as refrigerators, bathtubs, broken mirrors, and other “found” and recycled materials. Students have access to the thriving Santa Fe arts scene and regularly visit museums, exhibits, and studios that feature the works of local artists. Second-year students are given their own workspace in the art room, and all students contribute to regular gallery exhibitions. Visual Art students design and paint the backdrop for community-wide Culture Week shows, and the program offers introductory weekend workshops and instruction in various artistic media that are open to the community. Students interested in opportunities in film, graphic design, and photography can participate in Yearbook and Marketing and Communications ExEds.


“In Theatre, I was always encouraged to ‘dream big’. This was mainly in the context of staging, but this statement found place in other parts of my life as well, and is what I am most thankful for in joining UWC Theatre.” ~ Ieva Mackute (Lithuania ’19)

IB course offerings include Theatre and Literature and Performance. Both courses support regular public performances, all of which are imagined, written, and directed by students. Our program emphasizes site-based theatre and requires audiences to critically engage some of the most pressing social issues of our time. Recent performance sites have included an empty swimming pool, school courtyards, multiple levels of repurposed buildings, and town landmarks. Performance are often multilingual, and are influenced by a study of theatre genres from around the world. The program encourages risk-taking and is best summarized by Samuel Beckett: “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” We also offer play production through our ExEd program for students who are not enrolled in the IB classes, and all interested students have the opportunity to study theatre technology (including lighting, sound, and stage management). Theatre tech students are exclusively responsible for the execution of major school productions. Additional opportunities in the literary arts include writing for the Literati, a student-run periodical, and participating in poetry readings.


“Cultural Day shows are not only an expression of cultural identities and beliefs : they are one of the most identifiable definitions of the UWC spirit.” ~ Laura-Lys Alvarez (France ’19)

The Culture and Community division allows for interdisciplinary engagement across all aspects of the UWC experience as we work to showcase the cultural diversity of our student body and to collaborate with local and global communities working at the edges of artistic transformation. Our Culture Weeks offer students the opportunity to envision and direct three full-length stage performances each year that feature specific regions and cultural themes, accompanied by culinary offerings and a presentation on related global issues. Major campus events such as UWC Day and MLK Day culminate with student performances, and curriculum for local school programs regularly incorporates arts and culture activities. We offer interdisciplinary artist-in-residence programs with highly recognized professionals to connect students and the community to global movements in the arts and social change. Above all, we recognize that art is a powerful platform through which we can come to understand ourselves and each other as we both honor and push against the cultural boundaries that we have inherited.

To quote Morgan Bakinowski (USA ‘19), “Art is a physical manifestation of human intuition. It is a way to encapsulate the people we’ve become while here and reflect the people we aspire to be. It is a road map for our own growth, as the world around us changes in parallel.”


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