Deans Letter: Reinventing The College of Fine Arts

Thursday, January 11, 2018
Dean Doug Dempster
From Arts Next, Fall 2017 issue

Those of you who have been following the College of Fine Arts for the last few years are, by now, familiar with my refrain: technology, globalization and new forms of creativity are rapidly changing the arts, artistic practices, the way we access and participate in cultural activities, the commerce of the arts and the way “creatives” can and must make a living in cultural and creative industries. And it’s incumbent on a public university arts college to adapt to those changes as rapidly—and radically—as our students need.

I’ve been forecasting and promising a “sea change” in the way we educate the artists, performers and “creatives” of the next generation. I’ve promised that the College of Fine Arts would reinvent itself and its relevance to the economy and culture of our state and region. I’ve promised that we as a college would refashion ourselves to become as vital to the future of the University of Texas as any of the scientific, technical and professional colleges at UT.

With that in mind, I’m excited to share news of the creation of the new School of Design and Creative Technologies, a fourth major academic unit of the College of Fine Arts that will include a new Department of Design, a new Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies, the Design Institute for Health (a collaboration with the Dell Medical School), the Center for Integrated Design, as well as a new creative entrepreneurship and innovation initiative.

I don’t think it is premature to conclude that this is the single most significant change in the College of Fine Arts since its creation 80 years ago.

This new school is building its curriculum and faculty in close collaboration with the commercial industries that we expect to employ our future graduates. The interest from that commercial world, from High-End Systems, AT&T, IBM, Rooster Teeth, Intel, Dell, Open Labs, USAA, Charles Schwab and Autodesk, has been affirming.

Over the last year, we have put more than $3 million into renovating classrooms, offices, collaborative work spaces and fabrication facilities to help support this new school. We need to invest even more in moving our facilities into the 21st century. I hope you’ll come by to have a look at where we’re going and what we’ve accomplished so far. And I hope you’ll help us advance this vision with your financial support. Our students deserve the investment in their future, which is, after all, our future.

I’m proud to be able to announce that the School of Design and Creative Technologies will be led by design industry thought leader and Center for Integrated Design founding Director Doreen Lorenzo. Lorenzo was formerly CEO of frog design, one of the leading independent design firms in the country. 

I’m equally pleased to announce the appointment of Jan Ryan, a veteran executive in the Austin technology industry, venture capitalist and a leader among women entrepreneurs, who will be joining the college as Director of Creative Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

While this will be a year of transition as we reorganize this new unit, we are energized and excited by the opportunities this new school will create for our students.

Excelsior!

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