Courtesy of YaleNews

On June 1, University President Peter Salovey appointed Kymberly Pinder GRD ’95 as Dean of the Yale School of Art, making her the first person of color and the second woman to lead the school.

Pinder is set to assume the top role on July 1, pending final approval by the Yale Corporation. Pinder has worked as an administrator and professor at art schools across the country. She received a Master of Philosophy degree from Yale, as well as a Masters degree and a P.h.D. from the Yale Department of History of Art. Pinder recently published a book — the result of significant collaboration with local Chicago artists — exploring how Black imagery in the public sphere has empowered communities in Chicago for the past hundred years. 

“An internationally recognized scholar of race, representation, and murals, her work is studied widely in art history curricula across the country and has fostered new avenues of inquiry in her field,” Salovey wrote to the Yale community. “Her unique approach to her scholarship and practice as a curator demonstrates to students the importance of community engagement in the arts.”

Pinder has served as the acting president of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design since June 2020, having joined MassArt in 2019 as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. She previously served as dean of the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts from 2012 to 2018, as well as interim director and curator of the University of New Mexico Art Museum from 2014 to 2016. Prior to those positions, Pinder had worked at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she chaired the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism. 

While a student at Yale, Pinder published and lectured on medievalism in North America, European gothic architecture, religious imagery, and African Americans and women in art, according to Salovey’s email. She also studied various aspects of American identity formation and representation, and continues incorporating the ideas she developed at Yale in her scholarship today.

“I feel that all of my past positions have paved a path towards being dean here at Yale,” Pinder wrote in an email to the News. “Anyone joining a new organization this Fall must focus on listening and healing. The effects of living through multiple pandemics, with so much disruption and loss, must be acknowledged and addressed so we can clear the space to move ahead together. And I look forward to leading that process at the School [of Art].”

A dean’s search advisory committee appointed by Salovey created a position description and combed through resumes and letters of interest from candidates. The committee was tasked with finding between three and five candidates to present to Salovey. The committee’s charge was to find candidates from diverse backgrounds, Martin Kersels, committee chair and professor of sculpture, said. The committee asked all of the candidates about their administrative experience and professional life as an artist, according to Kersels. He was particularly impressed by Pinder’s listening skills during her interviews. 

Salovey then interviewed the finalists before selecting Pinder to be dean.

Throughout the year, the committee held Zoom-based listening sessions with members of the School community. Two main themes emerged, Kersels said. One was that the dean needed to “start a new history for the school” in terms of diversity and inclusion, Kersels said. The second was that the role and power of university administrators has grown.

The committee looked for candidates from diverse backgrounds and who had experience with school organizations and could handle labor relations, budgets and pedagogy, Kersels said.

According to Kersels, while Pinder will arrive at the school and immediately have to navigate a post-pandemic era and a time of great social change,  he has a “great feeling” about her ability to lead the school.

In her new role, Pinder will develop new educational opportunities for School of Arts students and extend the School’s work across campus, Salovey wrote. She will articulate a vision for the future of art and design at Yale, he added.

Pinder succeeds Dean Marta Kuzma, who will stay on at Yale as a tenured professor of art. Kuzma was the first female dean of the School of Art, and in a summer 2020 announcement to the Yale community said she would not seek reappointment after her five-year term as dean. 

“I am elated to learn Dr. Kymberly Pinder has been appointed as my successor,” Kuzma wrote in an email to the News. “Dr. Pinder’s experience as an academic and theorist, critically acclaimed for her writings around art and religion, history, and race, as well as her demonstrated excellence as a leader and administrator within peer graduate and undergraduate visual art programs, is exactly what the Yale School of Art needs as MFA programs across the nation address the necessary shift in the climate of future art education.” 

Pinder will lead the School of Art into its 152nd year.

Julia Brown served as University Editor on the Managing Board of 2023. Previously, she covered the University's graduate and professional schools as a staff reporter. She graduated cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics & Mathematics.
Rose Horowitch covers Woodbridge Hall. She previously covered sustainability and the University's COVID-19 response. She is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history.