Ravi Rajan Will Succeed Steven Lavine as President of CalArts

He is the institute's first Asian-American director.

Ravi S. Rajan, the fourth and current president of CalArts. Image courtesy CalArts.

The board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) announced yesterday that Ravi S. Rajan, dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase College, SUNY, has been selected as the fourth president of CalArts.

Rajan will take up the post in June 2017, succeeding Steven Lavine, whose unprecedented 29-year tenure at the institute saw CalArts’ endowment triple.

Rajan was chosen from over 500 international candidates in a unanimous vote. The school writes that Rajan is the institution’s first Asian-American president; he is also the first Indian-American to be named president of an arts school in America, ArtNews notes.

“CalArts is a beacon in the higher ed and arts community that has left an indelible mark on the artists who are forging the future monuments of culture and society,” said Rajan. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Rajan added, “Our immediate politics, our understanding of our differences—we’ve gone to a different place. It’s at this open moment where we are going to define a new set of rules, and I think culture-makers need to be there defining the rules.”

Rajan brings to the table extensive experience working with interdisciplinary arts, as well as in senior executive roles in higher education. An accomplished musician, he has held senior administrative roles at Purchase College since 2005. He is also a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, and president of the Asian American Arts Alliance.

“Ravi shows the fiery passion for the arts that was at the core of CalArts founding,” said Tim Disney, chairman of the board of trustees. “His commitment to excellence and exploration and innovation will help continue CalArts rich legacy and unbounded future.”

CalArts’ online announcement of its new president concludes with enthusiastic reactions from luminaries such as New York’s 106th mayor, David N. Dinkins; Heather A. Hitchens, President & CEO, American Theatre Wing; and Andrea Louie, Executive Director, Asian American Arts Alliance, among others.

There, artist Alfredo Jaar writes, “His acute vision of the world and his insightful understanding of the challenges of education are today more necessary than ever.”

Filmmaker Laura Poitras, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour, writes, “Ravi brings to CalArts a deep knowledge of the demands of artistic practice and innovation, and the concrete relationship between art and the political realities out of which it emerges. He is a fierce advocate for artists, and for the power of art to address the most pressing issues of our time. His skills are urgently needed as the country confronts the consequences of the political tragedy unfolding.”

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