Search for UA School of Art Director underway

By Lindsey Guimont

The Razorback Reporter

The search for a director of the newly created UA School of Art is under way. At the same time, students and faculty are looking forward to the changes that a $120 million gift will bring to their former department.

“We formed a search committee and we are starting the process of looking for a new director, and I understand there is a lot of interest so we’re very confident that we’re going to get a strong and visionary director to lead us into the future,” said Lynn Jacobs, art history distinguished professor.

The seven-member search committee is made up of program heads, the interim director, community members, university administration and a representative from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, she said.

The committee goal is to have a new director in place by the start of the spring semester, said Andra Parrish Liwag, Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences director of communications.

The School of Art was created by a $120 million endowment from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The endowment will go toward three main goals, including providing financial support, engaging with Crystal Bridges and expanding graduate programs, according to the news release that announced the gift.

“Additional goals include supporting the Fine Arts Library and the renovation of the historic Edward Durrell Stone-designed Fine Arts Center,” Liwag said. “For more of a breakdown, $36 million will go toward graduate student support and $14 million toward undergraduate student support in the form of scholarships, assistantships, etc.”

All aspects of the school will be phased in over five years and will factor in the approvals necessary for developing degree programs by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Liwag said.

“We’re going to get up to about 13 total faculty in art history and we’re also going to build and develop a master’s program and a Ph.D. program. We have never had graduate programs for art history before,” Jacobs said.

Kaitlyn Ayres (CQ), a junior graphic design major is excited for the changes to begin because part of the endowment is geared toward graphic design and renovating buildings, she said. She also appreciates that art education is being supported at the university.

“It’s great to see art get support when a lot of the time it’s looked down upon or it’s not seen as the most important major,” Ayres said. “You get to see that other people believe in you and believe in what art can be for this world.”

Alice Walton’s goal is to help everyone find their “art spirit,” she wrote in her blog, because it was a force in her life that helped with finance, business, philanthropy and of course, art. “The school will help develop not only artists, but stronger business leaders, engineers and scientists,” she wrote.

“From Northwest Arkansas, we will inspire students and scholars from around the globe with a fresh approach that will help redefine collaboration and experimentation by infusing the study of art into disciplines across higher education including business, education, architecture and engineering,” Walton wrote. “And with a close connection to Crystal Bridges, we will bring a new level of study to American art to help create a better understanding of our history and our future.”

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