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UA initiates search for art-school chief

FAYETTEVILLE -- After the announcement in August of a $120 million gift to support arts education, the search has begun for a director to lead the School of Art at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

University officials, in announcing the gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, emphasized plans to grow visual-arts education to benefit all students, offer increased scholarship aid and build community outreach and partnerships, including with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

A job posting published this week on UA's website describes a "fully integrated" and "enhanced" partnership with Crystal Bridges that will allow the museum's collections to form a basis for teaching. The posting described expected growth of the arts at UA -- including "collaborations with many of the university's academic units" -- and a commitment to studying American art.

"The School of Art will create a signature program that uniquely positions it as the place for the study of and research in American art and the art of the Americas," the job posting states.

The new director will be expected to recruit a "preeminent advisory board," according to the job posting.

The school now enrolls more than 400 students and has 36 faculty and staff members, with growth expected to include several new degree programs and the addition of 26 new faculty members over a five-year period, the announcement said.

Crystal Bridges, in Bentonville, opened in 2011 to national attention. It was built with funding by the Walton Family Foundation and support from Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founders Sam and Helen Walton.

Alice Walton, the museum's board chairman, is quoted in the job posting as saying the school "will shape a new generation of artists, historians, designers and teachers with a unique understanding of the hope art can bring to communities."

The school requires in a director "a builder, a futurist, a storyteller, and a results-oriented leader," the posting states. Qualifications include a terminal degree in art education, art history, graphic design or studio art, as well as five years of experience in administration and 10 years of experience in teaching, research and service.

UA is working with a Los Angeles search firm, Korn Ferry. The amount paid to the firm was unavailable Tuesday, but UA spokesman Mark Rushing said in an email that "no public funds are being used."

Todd Shields, dean of UA's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will make the hiring decision in consultation with Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Provost Jim Coleman, Rushing said. The goal is to have a director in place in the spring, Rushing said.

Advisory board members will include "constituents with connections in the field who will serve as advocates for the university," Rushing said. "The board will likely include Arkansans and others representing art museums and other perspectives in the field of art including art historians, artists and philanthropists."

Hunter O'Hanian, executive director of the New York-based College Art Association, said recruiting a board of advisers will help the university with building "as big of a network as they can," the next step then being to bring on "really strong faculty."

He said the school's emphasis on American art is unlikely to greatly narrow the field of interested candidates.

"I think it would be a very desirable position for an experienced director or dean," O'Hanian said. "A lot of it's going to depend upon how much freedom and leeway that individual will have to craft a new program."

Metro on 10/11/2017

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