Courtesy of Yale News
This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Feb. 10.
Marta Kuzma will serve as the next dean of the Yale School of Art, University President Peter Salovey announced Tuesday. She is the first female dean in the school’s nearly 150-year history.
Kuzma, the vice chancellor and rector of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden, will succeed current School of Art Dean Robert Storr at the end of this academic year. In addition to her experience at the Royal Institute of Art, Kuzma has also recently served as visiting professor in art theory at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice and the Università Bocconi in Milan. Her international, extensive experience is what set her apart from other candidates for the position, Salovey said.
“[Kuzma] distinguished herself as an independent and creative thinker with a strong record of forging and enhancing connections to students and faculty,” Salovey wrote in the email announcing Kuzma’s new position.
Professor Sheila Levrant de Bretteville ART ’64, director of graduate studies in graphic design — and the first woman to earn tenure on the School of Art faculty — served as chair of the committee that selected Kuzma for the position. According to de Bretteville, the process was extensive and deeply confidential.
“I asked President Salovey whether the search was a free one and he said that it was,” de Bretteville said. “That allowed us to a very wide search and [to] talk to a lot of people from different backgrounds.”
Kuzma, born in New Jersey, is of Ukrainian origins but grew up in New York. She received a B.A. from Barnard College, and later an M.A. in aesthetics and art theory from London’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University.
Anoka Faruqee ’94, the School of Art’s director of graduate studies and a member of the appointment committee, said that Kuzma’s international experience is particularly valuable, adding that she hopes it might bring a “fresh perspective” to the school.
“She brings a lot of international experience to the position, having lived abroad for a length of time,” Faruqee noted. “I think she’ll be able to take the Art School to the next stage of involving a more international experience.”
In his email, Salovey wrote that Kuzma “has extensive experience curating high-level, international exhibitions,” having served as the first director of Kiev, Ukraine’s Center for Contemporary Art, as well as head of international exhibitions at New York’s International Center of Photography.
De Bretteville said that Kuzma’s collaborative nature, paired with her passion for education, progressive thinking and innovation — which she exhibited during her tenure at the Swedish Royal Institute — set her apart from other candidates.
“We wanted someone who had a vision, who would bring something fresh to the School of Art but who would also be accommodating,” de Bretteville explained.
Beyond progressive thinking and innovation, Kuzma’s appointment represents a much more profound change at the school.
Lisa Kereszi ’00, the school’s director of undergraduate studies and a member of the selection committee, said that the appointment of a woman to the deanship for the first time marks an important moment in the school’s history.
“It’s thrilling to me, as a female alum and DUS, that the new dean is a woman,” Kereszi said. “After all, Yale’s School of Fine Arts admitted women a full century before Yale College did, in 1869, so it’s about time.”
Bianca Boragi ART ’17 and Isaac Howell ART ’17, first-year MFA candidates in sculpture and painting at the Art School, shared Kereszi’s excitement regarding the historic first appointment of a female dean.
“Everyone is excited by the announcement, and the importance of Marta being the first female dean to lead the school in its 150-year history cannot be overlooked,” Howell said. “Storr has always been a strong proponent of diversity, and I think that there is a real significance in having [Kuzma] succeed his legacy at the School of Art.”