Elevating Diverse Voices in the Arts

June 10, 2024

Reuben Carranza and Jim Hoffbauer foster equity and creativity in the next generation.

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The JustArts Fellows program’s student-first strategy deeply resonated with Carranza and Hoffbauer.

The JustArts Fellows program’s student-first strategy deeply resonated with Carranza and Hoffbauer.

Photo provided by the College of Fine Arts

Reuben Carranza ’90 and his husband, Jim Hoffbauer, formed a connection through their shared passion for “anything related to the arts.” 

“It was almost like a second language to us,” reflects Carranza, a fourth-generation Tucsonan. Music, he says, had a significant influence on his upbringing. He began performing at a young age, playing the trumpet in his school band and the violin in the symphony, and showcasing his guitar and violin skills as a professional mariachi. 

“The arts allowed me to see the world in a much bigger way,” says Carranza. He remembers seeing his first student ballet performance and exploring an art museum while studying at the University of Arizona. 

Hoffbauer, who grew up in Cincinnati, had his artistic awakening in elementary school. “In the fifth grade, there was a field trip where we were going to a music hall to watch the opera ‘La Traviata,’” he says. “I fell in love with the arts from then on.” Apart from his passion for opera, Hoffbauer has taught himself to play the piano and enjoys charcoal drawing. 

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Jim  Hoffbauer and Reuben Carranz

Photo provided by Jim Hoffbauer and Reuben Carranz

Beyond their interest in the arts, the couple shared the experience of being first-generation college students, navigating the challenges and new experiences of university life. 

After graduating from the Eller College of Management, Carranza went on to a successful twodecade career, first at Procter and Gamble and later in the beauty industry. He recently joined beauty brands Amika, Eva NYC and Ethique as group CEO. 

Carranza attributes his “stagecraft skills” to his early performance experiences. 

“As a musician, you have to learn how to carry yourself, read a room and have conversations with people you don’t know,” he says. “It was incredibly advantageous to me in my profession in the marketing and sales world.” 

Hoffbauer, an investment trader, stepped out of his comfort zone at the University of Cincinnati by enrolling in improvisational acting classes. 

“Not only did it help me see things from a different perspective, but it also helped me get in touch with parts of who I am,” he says. 

Drawing from their experiences, the couple realized the importance of increasing exposure to the arts for all students. They shared their vision to invest in and support initiatives promoting accessibility in the arts with UArizona Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Vice President for the Arts Andrew Schulz. Ultimately, they made a gift to the College of Fine Arts Medici Scholars and the recently launched student-driven equity initiative, the JustArts Fellows.

The student-first strategy of the program resonated deeply with the couple. 

“I remember being in high school band and having a teacher that made me feel bad about playing mariachi, because he didn’t view that as a legitimate musical art form,” Carranza says. 

Hoffbauer says he had similar experiences in design school. “I remember it was like, ‘You design this way.’ I thought, ‘No, not everybody designs that way.’” 

The JustArts Fellows span disciplines within the College of Fine Arts. Students in the program identify challenges — such as disparities in opportunities and resources faced by artists and art students — and generate creative solutions in collaboration with Arizona Arts peers.

The 2023-2024 JustArts Fellows cohort, for instance, is organizing opportunities for students to learn inclusive best practices for raising awareness about gender-based violence and bias in the filmmaking industry. The cohort also has implemented audio pop-up events on campus where students can foster intimacy and recognition from “different sides of the track.”

‘The voices that aren’t heard need to be heard. Their experiences need to be acknowledged, and that’s what the arts do. ... They help all of us grow to be better human beings.’

In 2023, Carranza and Hoffbauer met the inaugural JustArts Fellows cohort over Zoom ahead of their public presentations. 

“We would have never thought about some of the focus areas that the students zoned in on, because we’re not at the university, we’re not in their age group,” says Carranza, adding that seeing the breadth of the fellows’ programs was an aha! moment. 

As the couple looks forward to the next cohort of JustArts Fellows, Carranza hopes to dispel what he calls “philanthropic myths,” pointing out, for example, that one doesn’t need to be a billionaire to contribute meaningfully. 

“We want to make sure that we’re planting some flags that are saying [that] the arts are a critical component of a well-rounded education,” he says. 

Embracing the arts expands vision and connects diverse perspectives — a fundamental aspect of the university experience. 

“The voices that aren’t heard need to be heard. Their experiences need to be acknowledged, and that’s what the arts do,” says Hoffbauer. “They help all of us grow to be better human beings."