Welcome from Head of School Charlie White

Posted on August 27, 2019

Charlie White speaking to a group of students outside

Dear School of Art community and friends,

As the new school year begins, I think back to my arrival in Pittsburgh with my family three summers ago. I recall the humid afternoons and thinking that it had been twenty years since I’d lived with the sound of cicadas in the air. As I came to discover, both in my role running the School of Art, and through my newfound practice of distance running—first through local neighborhoods, and more recently through our sprawling urban parks—Pittsburgh is a magnificent city. Here, one can walk under canopies of sycamores and oaks, visit libraries and museums of international note, and witness a rapidly developing hub of cultural and technological growth and experimentation. The city’s generous civic spaces, walkable neighborhoods, and industrial history all enrich its uniqueness and exemplify a city that has lost neither its character nor its way to the future.

To those of you who are just arriving to the city, welcome, and to those of you who are returning, welcome back and welcome home. We are excited to get to know our vibrant and dynamic new first year class—who come from all across the US and from five countries around the world—along with six phenomenal new MFA candidates, who bring a wealth of diverse experiences and ideas to their artistic practice.

This is going to be a very exciting year within the School of Art. This fall, we are fortunate to have two incredible artists join our community, Isla Hanson in the area of Sculpture and Katherine Hubbard in the area of Photography, both assistant professors in Art. I am so excited to have these bold thinkers on our faculty, as they bring essential voices and visions to our growing pedagogical platform. We also welcome Alisha Wormsley, who will spend two years with us as a presidential postdoctoral fellow, and Everest Pipkin, who joins us for one year as a visiting assistant professor. Combined, these four faculty will help to expand our dialog and push the dynamics of theory and practice forward. Please join me in welcoming these new members to our community, as we will all benefit from their insights and perspectives.

In addition to our new faculty, this December also brings the opening of our new graduate facility, the largest addition of space to the school in decades. The graduate facility will both transform our MFA community and greatly expand the space available to our undergraduates, providing needed studio space for our third- and fourth-year students. As head of school, it has been paramount to me that our MFA program’s many activities be centralized into a single location, which will create a more cohesive community, help facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and support graduate-level programming. With over 10,000 square feet committed to graduate studios, seminar spaces, study areas, and more, the new graduate facility will allow us to meet that goal.

This will also be a rather significant year within the university, as CMU launches its capital campaign this fall. Though the impact of this campaign may not be immediately felt within our community, from my vantage point it will mean that we can focus on building, transforming, and improving the School of Art to provide more space, faculty, funding, and resources. As the number six art school in the nation, housing the number one program in time-based art, it is imperative that we offer students exceptional studio spaces, visiting lecturers, and classrooms. Platforms such as the capital campaign will allow us to move forward with providing the most current tools, engaging the most relevant issues, and reaching new territories of making, thinking, and being.

In closing, I would like to again welcome everyone and offer some final thoughts. As we embark on the year ahead, I believe it’s necessary to acknowledge that we are living in volatile times, and with a bellicose national tone that can be wearing on the soul and stifling to the spirit. As artists, we possess the tools to tell other narratives, create alternative discourses, and present ways of seeing that do not have to fit popular or normative expectations. Artists have historically expanded notions of inclusion and spearheaded platforms for societal growth, awareness, and progress. I invite us all to remember and embrace these qualities of art and artists in the coming year; let’s also be sure to care for our own wellbeing along with that of our shared future.

With that said, I look forward to a wonderful year ahead!


Charlie White