USC Roski School of Art and Design rebuilds with 'transformative' new hires

The USC Roski School of Art and Design is attempting to rebuild – both its embattled infrastructure and its image.

Last year, seven studio art MFA students withdrew from the school protesting curriculum changes and staff defections at the university. The lone student left, International Artist Fellow HaeAnn Kwon, walked away in June from the school — and her free tuition — calling the program "a sham" in a public letter.

On Thursday, the Roski School announced what it called a "transformative group hire."  

Artists Suzanne Lacy, Edgar Arceneaux, Keith Mayerson, Kori Newkirk and Patty Chang will join the Roski School's senior faculty as of the 2016-2017 academic year.

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In a statement, USC said the new artist hires "signals the school's dedication to playing a key role in the broader Los Angeles, national and global art communities" and that the new faculty members "represent the most exciting aspects of cross-disciplinary practice, traversing pure aesthetics and social activism."

"Leveraging our enviable position in a major comprehensive university, the only major research university that boasts six independent art schools as well as schools of social work, public policy and the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been a strategic goal since 2013," said USC Roski Dean Erica Muhl. "We are steadfast in preparing our students to thrive in a more complex art world."

The high-profile hires bring an infusion of new energy and rigor to the Roski School's MFA program, whose U.S. News & World Report ranking plummeted to No. 69 this past spring from No. 36 in 2012 among fine arts graduate programs.

Lacy in particular is a high-profile hire. The international artist, pioneering feminist and social activist — who was part of artist Judy Chicago's Feminist Art Program at both Fresno State and CalArts — was chair of fine arts and creator of the MFA program in public practice at Otis College of Art and Design, as well as a founding faculty member at Cal State Monterey Bay, among other academic positions.

"These transformative hires will continue the school's tradition of excellence," added Vice Dean of Art Nao Bustamante, "while breaking new ground in visual arts pedagogy, practice and research."

Follow me on Twitter: @DebVankin


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