Arts Advocates: Sheila Peterson

  • Sheila Peterson
    Sheila Peterson


Q&A with Sheila Peterson

Sheila Peterson is passionate about arts education and student support — in part because she raised children who became artists. In addition to serving on the Dean’s Arts Board for the last decade, she co-chairs the CTSA Scholarship Committee and is a member of the Claire Trevor Society Leadership Committee. She is also a UCI Foundation Trustee and chair of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute’s advisory board.

Q. As co-chair of UCI’s $2 billion Brilliant Future Campaign, can you share how you see arts contributing to the overall vibrancy of the campus community?

SP: Art is one field where there’s a natural and beautiful interface between UCI and the community.  CTSA puts tremendous effort into arts outreach programs each year, making sure that the community knows what the school has to offer, whether its dance or Shakespeare, the orchestra or art galleries. Arts is one of the best ways for people to become aware of UCI, enjoy the campus, and ultimately become involved. .

Q.  You’re also involved with UCI’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute. Do you feel art plays a role in health and wellbeing?

SP: Some of the amazing art in UCI’s collections has been put up not in a museum, but at the hospital, because art and healing go hand in hand.  For example, we know listening to certain music changes your brain waves and that dance can be used as therapy. There’s a special crossover between art and healing, mindfulness, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Q. As co-chair of CTSA’s scholarship committee and a longtime supporter of CTSA’s Medici Circle Scholarship program, which helps fund educational student projects, why do you feel it’s important to support the next generation of creative leaders in the arts?

SP: Some of my own children make their living in the arts, so I know that as a mother, when your child says they’re going to be a doctor or lawyer or M.B.A., you’re excited and see a brilliant future for them. But when your child tells you they’re going into the arts, you explain how they need to be practical to support themselves. So I know the students in CTSA have chosen a difficult path. They are here for true passion and love of what they do. I believe artists make our life richer, and student artists need all the encouragement they can get.

Q. Why do you feel it’s important to continue supporting student artists during the pandemic, when it is inherently difficult to share art with the community?

SP: Feedback is so important in the arts, and artists are really suffering without that now. CTSA has done a great job pivoting and offering venues online for students to perform. One of the Medici Scholarships I gave last year supported a student working with technology to overcome that split-second delay over the internet so that musicians can actually rehearse together. If anything, this pandemic offers students challenges that will make them more creative and inspired to overcome problems.

Q. If someone is interested in getting involved in some small way with supporting the CTSA, what would you recommend as an ideal way to dip their toe in the water?

SP: Last year, the Claire Trevor Society started, and even with a small donation, members are invited to all the performances and social events each year to go meet other like-minded people. CTSA amazes me with all it has to offer, and is always looking for people who want to be social, get involved and come to shows. 

To learn more about ways to support CTSA, contact Sarah Strozza, Director of Development, at 949-824-0629 or

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CONNECT - Spring 2021

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