The University of Texas at Austin has named alumnus Ramón H. Rivera-Servera as the next dean of the College of Fine Arts. His appointment will begin July 1.
Rivera-Servera comes to UT Austin from Northwestern University, where he chaired the Department of Performance Studies and the Department of Theatre in the School of Communication. He was the first graduate of the Performance as Public Practice Ph.D. program in UT Austin’s Department of Theatre and Dance, and he will be the first Latino dean of the UT College of Fine Arts.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rivera-Servera is an interdisciplinary scholar with a focus on creative ethnography, new work development in performance and other ephemeral art forms and Black and Latinx arts and cultures in North America and the Caribbean. For more than 20 years, Rivera-Servera’s scholarly work has focused on how the arts contribute to social transformation and how the arts can help us become a more intentionally collaborative and ethical society. His work documents a wide array of performance practices, ranging from theater and concert dance to social dance, fashion and speech.
“Dean Rivera-Servera is a person of incredible drive, energy, charisma and intellect. His passion is infectious, and I’m excited to see him work with the College of Fine Arts to raise it to even greater heights,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “We had to compete with other universities to bring Ramón to UT, but like many of our alumni, he knows the Forty Acres is home, a place from which he can change the world.”
“I am honored by the opportunity to return to my alma mater and lead the College of Fine Arts,” said Rivera-Servera. “My education at UT and my participation in Black, Latinx and LGBTQ art communities in the Central Texas region shaped my own vision for the relationship between art and society. It was in poetry readings organized by Joe Jiménez and Sharon Bridgforth at Allgo, at exhibition openings at Mexic-Arte Museum, and in the seminar room of the Winship Building that this queer Latinx migrant, hailing from the longest held colonial territory in the Americas, found his call. I look forward to helping future art makers and art leaders chart their own pathways in the arts under the guidance of our world-class and dedicated faculty and staff.”
In his career, Rivera-Servera has worked to advance transformational change in the arts, especially around issues of equity and inclusion. He co-founded the Latinx Theatre and Performance Studies Focus Group at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and created two arts incubation platforms — the Performance in the Borderlands Project at Arizona State University and the Puerto Rican Arts Initiative at Northwestern University — to advance the artistic practices of communities not historically included in the national art scenes of the United States.
He serves on the board of the National Association for Latino Arts and Culture, the largest funding and advocacy organization devoted to the support and promotion of Latinx arts in the United States, and the advisory board of OTV, a digital film and media distribution platform invested in developing the work of underrepresented communities. Rivera-Servera is co-editor of the “Triangulations: Gay/Lesbian/Queer Theatre/Drama/Performance” list at the University of Michigan Press, one of the leading book series on LGBTQ scholarship in theatre, performance and dance. He is the author of “Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics” (University of Michigan Press, 2012).
Rivera-Servera will succeed Doug Dempster, who has served as dean since 2007, and he will be the eighth dean of the college since its founding in 1937. For more than 80 years, the college has provided leadership regionally and nationally in the study of visual arts, music, theater, dance, design and arts education. As dean, Rivera-Servera will oversee the Butler School of Music, the Department of Art and Art History, the Department of Theatre and Dance and the School of Design and Creative Technologies, as well as the Texas Performing Arts, the university’s arts presenting organization, and Landmarks, the university’s public art program.