Franklin “Buzz” Spector named dean of art in Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Franklin “Buzz” Spector, professor and former chair of the Department of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has been named dean of the College and Graduate School of Art, both part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Spector also will hold the Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professorship of Art.

The appointment, effective July 1, was announced by Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

Image courtesy of Angela Sheinman

Buzz Spector

An internationally recognized artist and critical writer, Spector works in a wide range of mediums including sculpture, photography, printmaking, book arts and installation. He joined the Department of Art in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University in 2001 and served as chair of the department until 2007. Prior, he taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joining the faculty as professor of art in 1994 and serving as head of the painting program from 1997-2001.

Spector has held visiting professorships and lectureships at a number of universities and schools of art including the University of California’s campuses at Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Barbara; California State University, Fullerton; Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.; and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Buzz brings great energy and breadth of experience to Washington University as an academic leader and an internationally recognized artist, writer and art critic,” Colangelo said. “He is an outstanding and dedicated teacher who will make substantial contributions to the new curriculum and provide leadership in the development of both the studio art and design programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Spector said he looks forward to joining the university. “I’ve admired the commitment to the arts at Washington University in St. Louis for many years and have lectured and critiqued student work there in the past,” Spector said. “Indeed, several undergraduate students of mine later received their MFAs from Washington University, where the rigor of the design and art studios helped them to significantly expand their critical and creative horizons. I look forward to expanding my own sense of the field, and its multiple contexts, as a colleague at Washington University.”

An advisory committee co-chaired by Patricia Olynyk, the Florence and Frank Bush Professor of Art and director of the Graduate School of Art, and William Wallace, Ph.D., the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History in the Department of Art History and Archaeology in Arts & Sciences, led the dean search.

“I am particularly enthused about Buzz Spector’s appointment,” Olynyk said. “His creative work integrates practice with intellectual inquiry, positioning him well to help guide the Graduate School of Art — a critically engaged studio-based program that is advancing 21st-century contemporary creative practices and culture through new and innovative educational paradigms.”

Buzz Spector, “Actual Words of Art” (2005), handmade paper and yarn.

“With the Sam Fox School, Washington University is creating a pre-eminent center for arts education in the country,” Wallace said. “Buzz Spector, with his distinguished track record of interdisciplinary collaboration, has the vision to lead the College of Art in this exciting endeavor.”

Spector succeeds Ron Leax, the Halsey Cooley Ives Professor of Art, who will have completed his one-year appointment as dean June 30. Prior to Leax, Jeff Pike, professor of art, served as dean from 1999-2008.

“We are deeply grateful to Ron for serving so effectively as dean of art following Jeff Pike’s tenure,” Colangelo said. “His steadfast work on the accreditation process of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and in all areas of the program has been phenomenal.”

A native of Chicago, Spector received a bachelor’s degree in art from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1972 and a master of fine arts degree from the Committee of Art and Design at the University of Chicago in 1978, combining studies in art and philosophy.

Spector’s work makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and as object, and concerns the relationships among public history, individual memory and perception. He has issued a number of artists’ books and editions since the mid-1970s, including “Time Square,” a letterpress limited-edition book published in 2007 by Pyracantha Press at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Buzz Spector, “Bibliography: Memory Effects” (2002), internal dye diffusion prints.

Other publications include “Details: closed to open” (2001), an artist’s book of photographic details from images in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, an archive of historical and contemporary information related to peace and social justice, and “Beautiful Scenes: Selections from the Cranbrook Archives” (1998).

Spector’s work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries, among them the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Penn., and the Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato, Italy.

Spector is a co-founder of WhiteWalls, a journal of art and language first published in 1977 at the University of Chicago. He served as the journal’s editor until 1987; since then, he has written extensively on topics in contemporary art and culture for American Craft, Artforum, Art Issues, Dialogue, Exposure, New Art Examiner and Visions.

He is the author of “The Book Maker’s Desire” (1995), critical essays on topics in contemporary art and artists’ books, and numerous exhibition catalogue essays including “Dieter Roth” (1999, University of Iowa Museum of Art) and “Ann Hamilton: Sao Paulo-Seattle” (1992, University of Washington Press).

The recipient of several awards and fellowships, Spector was honored with an Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2005), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1991), a Visual Artist’s Fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council (1988) and three fellowship awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991, 1985 and 1982).

“Buzz will make an excellent dean who will lead the College and Graduate School of Art to achieve even greater success and distinction and will help the Sam Fox School realize our vision and goals,” Colangelo said.