Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts created

Washington University will create a new academic and administrative unit that will bring together its nationally ranked programs in art and architecture and one of the nation’s finest university art museums, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced Jan. 19.

The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts will include Washington University’s academic programs in Art and Architecture as well as the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. Two additional areas — the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences and the Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Information Center (formerly the Art & Architecture Library) — also will provide opportunities for collaboration with the Sam Fox School.

“The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts will strengthen collaboration between all of Washington University’s outstanding design and visual arts areas,” Wrighton said. “At the same time, it will create a larger-scale academic enterprise with greater resources and flexibility. This, in turn, will contribute to enhancing the quality, visibility and impact of our programs in design and the visual arts.”

The Sam Fox School both builds on and subsumes the University’s Sam Fox Arts Center, a more loosely knit association of design and visual arts programs. The Sam Fox School will be led by a dean, who will be responsible for fiscal affairs in Art and Architecture and who will oversee the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. The deans of Art and Architecture will report to the dean of the Fox School. The dean of the Sam Fox School will report to the chancellor.

In addition, the dean will chair the Sam Fox School’s Executive Committee, comprising the leaders of art, architecture, Art History and Archaeology, the Kemper Art Museum and the Kranzberg Center.

“This is not a merger of Art and Architecture,” Wrighton emphasized. “These important academic units have vitality, potential and great traditions, and will continue to have unique and identifiable programs of education and scholarship and will be led by academic deans. No academic programs are being eliminated, and faculty positions will remain unaffected. Indeed, the intent of these administrative changes is to strengthen our academic programs in design and the visual arts so that we can continue to recruit faculty and students of the highest caliber.

“With a nearly $60 million investment in new and renovated facilities and tremendous momentum fostered by Dean Jeff Pike of Art and Dean Cynthia Weese of Architecture, the administrative structure positions us well to enhance the quality, impact and visibility of our work in design and the visual arts.”

The new structure will take effect July 1, 2006, by which time the dean of the Sam Fox School will be in place.

Establishment of the Sam Fox School follows recent recommendations from the University’s Task Force on the Organization of the Sam Fox Arts Center, chaired by Frank C.P. Yin, Ph.D., M.D., the Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Professor and chair of biomedical engineering.

The task force, which concluded its work in November, included faculty, administrators and alumni from the University’s arts programs. Its findings were discussed in several forums with faculty and professional staff of the Sam Fox Arts Center units, including meetings with faculty and staff in Architecture, Art, Art History & Archaeology, the Kemper Art Museum and the Libraries.

The Board of Trustees was briefed on the consideration of the administrative changes at its meetings in October and December. The Executive Committee of the board approved the changes at its January meeting.

Wrighton noted that the University must fill two additional arts leadership posts: dean of Architecture and director of the Kemper Art Museum. Mark S. Weil, Ph.D., the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and current director of both the Sam Fox Arts Center and the Kemper Art Museum, will retire June 30. At the same time, Weese will return to full-time practice with her firm in Chicago, Weese Langley Weese.

Jerome J. Sincoff will succeed Weese as dean of architecture beginning July 1 (See related story). Sincoff is the retired president and chief executive officer of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc., one of the world’s largest architecture firms, as well as immediate past chair of the University’s Architecture national council; a former trustee; and a distinguished architecture alumnus. He will serve as dean until the University, together with the dean of the Sam Fox School, has selected the next dean of architecture.

Sincoff also will serve on the Advisory Committee to Appoint the Dean of the Sam Fox School, as will Pike; Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor for information technology and dean of University Libraries; and other campus leaders. A new director of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will be appointed in coming weeks.

Creation of the Sam Fox School comes in the midst of a $56.8 million campaign to improve the University’s arts facilities. Two new buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki — Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall and a new Kemper Art Museum — are now under construction and are scheduled to open in fall 2006.

In addition, Bixby and Givens halls, respective homes to Art and Architecture, recently underwent extensive renovation. Additional renovations are planned for Steinberg Hall, current home of the Kemper Art Museum, Art History & Archaeology and the Kranzberg Information Center.