Record Banner
Vol.25, No. 01 Sept. 3, 1999

Bruce Ferguson Is Named Dean of the School of the Arts

By Ulrika Brand

Bruce W. Ferguson, an internationally recognized art curator and cultural theorist who has led the New York Academy of Art as president and executive director, was named dean of the School of the Arts, Columbia President George Rupp announced during the summer.

"Our national search for an outstanding leader in the arts has led Columbia to a seasoned arts administrator whose deep understanding of arts education and the broader art community is widely admired," Rupp said.

"The professional training Columbia provides students in its School of the Arts is ranked among the best in the nation. I am confident that Bruce Ferguson, with his wealth of energy, ideas and expertise, will continue the school's impressive trajectory and lead it to a new level of eminence."

Ferguson will replace Robert Fitzpatrick, who stepped down as dean of the school in June of 1998 to head the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Columbia's School of the Arts comprises four divisions offering graduate programs: Writing and Film (both of which have MFA programs that are considered among the country's top five), Visual Arts and Theatre Arts; its teachers are practicing artists who define and lead within their respective fields. As dean, Fitzpatrick had spearheaded an ambitious program that strengthened the faculty and made substantial physical improvements to facilities.

During the time of the national search for a successor, Daniel Kleinman, professor of film at the school, served as acting dean.

Commenting on his appointment to the Columbia deanship, Ferguson said, "It is an honor to take on the leadership of such a vital institution. Columbia's School of the Arts is remarkable for the quality of its students and of its faculty. I hope to find a way to unify the four divisions through interests they have in common, such as uses of new technologies and mutual intellectual investigations."

At the New York Academy of Art, Ferguson established an endowment for the institution, expanded course offerings, and substantially increased the size and diversity of both the student body and the faculty. He also initiated a program, "Go Figure," to send the academy's graduate art students into New York City public high schools to teach figure drawing.

Ferguson has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to arts education and has held teaching positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts; The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; Parsons School of Design; Yale University Department of Sculpture, and the Graduate Studio Art Program at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

Jonathan R. Cole, provost and dean of Faculties, said, "Under the leadership of Bruce Ferguson, I believe that Columbia's School of the Arts will become recognized as preeminent in the nation. Building upon the existing base of exceptional faculty and students, Ferguson will use his knowledge and experience in the art world to address the challenges of needed facilities and financial aid while weaving the School even further into the fabric of the cultural life of New York City. I look forward to helping him achieve these goals."

Added David H. Cohen, Columbia's vice president of the Arts and Sciences and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, "Dean-designate Ferguson brings to the role experience in fundraising, ties to the larger arts world, an understanding of the arts and arts education, administrative experience and a deep desire to work with the faculty to develop a clear signature for the school."

Ferguson, 52, a native of Canada, began his training in the arts at the University of Saskatchewan where he received a B.A. in art history and, in the Canadian intellectual tradition of Marshall McLuhan, continued his investigations into linguistics, art and the mass media, receiving an M.A. in communications from McGill University.