Kymberly Pinder Named Dean at Yale School of Art

Kymberly Pinder, an internationally recognized scholar of race, representation, and murals, has been appointed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art, President Peter Salovey announced June 1 in a message to the university community. Her term begins July 1.

Now acting president of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), Pinder has distinguished herself throughout an academic and curatorial career that has involved a series of major leadership positions. Her scholarly work, which is studied widely in art history curricula across the country, has fostered new avenues of inquiry in her field, and she has demonstrated the importance of community engagement in the arts, Salovey said.

“Professor Pinder is widely known for her deep commitment to teaching, which is rooted in her belief that an education is key to social mobility and to finding solutions to local and national challenges,” he said. “As she encourages students to pursue excellence and nurtures their artistic aspirations, she also teaches them to examine carefully every facet of society… I invite you to join me in congratulating Professor Pinder and in welcoming her back to the Yale community.”

Pinder’s most recent book, Painting the Gospel: Black Public Art and Religion in Chicago, explores how Black imagery in the public sphere has empowered communities in that city. The book reflects her consistent collaboration with local artists, including well-known muralists and anonymous graffiti writers, Salovey said. Pinder also edited Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History, a 2002 book that has launched multidisciplinary studies of the role of race in art.

“The Yale School of Art provides an unmatched platform for promoting excellence while effecting positive change,” said Pinder, who earned her Ph.D. in art history from Yale in 1995. “I look forward to working with colleagues and students across the campus, the city, and the globe to extend the boundaries of arts practice and education. Objects and their making unlock and shape dialogues in some of the most transformative ways for both makers and viewers. It is an honor to return to Yale to help nurture its rich culture of rigorous inquiry. I am excited to bring my Yale education full circle.”

Pinder will succeed Marta Kuzma, dean of the School of Art since 2016 and the first woman to lead the school. Kuzma will join the full-time faculty as a tenured professor of art.

“I am elated to learn Dr. Kymberly Pinder has been appointed as my successor,” said Kuzma. “I am honored to entrust the office of the deanship to Dr. Pinder, who will be the first woman of color appointed dean within the School’s 150-year history. Dr. Pinder’s experience as an academic and theorist, critically acclaimed for her writings around art and religion, history, and race, as well as her demonstrated excellence as a leader and administrator within peer graduate and undergraduate visual art programs, is exactly what the Yale School of Art needs as MFA programs across the nation address the necessary shift in the climate of future art education.”

Salovey praised Kuzma for her contributions to the school and to Yale.

“She forged intellectual connections among students and faculty from diverse fields and encouraged individuals from all walks of life to engage with the arts,” he said. “Professor Pinder will build on all that Dean Kuzma and School of Art faculty, students, and staff have achieved over the past five years.”

As a Yale alumna, Pinder is familiar with the university’s distinctive focus on working across disciplines in teaching, scholarship, research, and practice. While a doctoral student, she published and lectured on medievalism in North America, European gothic architecture, religious imagery, and African Americans and women in art. With the support of her faculty mentors, she began studying different aspects of the formation and representation of American identity, work that continues to influence her scholarship and teaching.

“Professor Pinder is eager to draw on what she has learned at Yale and all her subsequent experiences to develop new educational opportunities for our students and to infuse the work of the School of Art across every part of our campus,” Salovey said. “She also looks forward to working with faculty and students to shape a vision for the future of art and design.”

In addition to her scholarship and teaching, Pinder has extensive experience leading academic, educational, and curatorial work at institutions of higher education and museums. Prior to being named the acting president of MassArt, she served as its provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Earlier, Pinder served six years as the dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, the state’s largest fine arts program. She also was interim director and curator of the University of New Mexico Art Museum, where her exhibition “Necessary Force: Art in the Police State,” curated with her Yale classmate Karen Fiss, garnered recognition for its bold and timely content.

Prior to that, Kymberly Pinder was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she served as the chair of the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism and director of the graduate program.

Throughout Pinder’s career, she has created new coursework that promotes critical thinking, forums for open discussion, and opportunities to produce and display works of art that bring insight to complex issues, Salovey said.

He underscored the connections Pinder has forged between her academic institutions and local communities, including collaborations with elected officials and business leaders to advocate for the importance of arts and culture in enhancing economic growth. She has curated exhibitions on urgent contemporary issues to provide forums for student and community dialogue. She also has helped to introduce arts curricula in local public schools. Working with various artists and local officials, she has taught courses that inspired the creation of murals in Chicago and Albuquerque.

Salovey thanked the members of the search advisory committee, which was chaired by Martin Kersels, professor of sculpture and director of graduate studies at the School of Art.

“I am delighted that Kymberly Pinder has chosen to be the next dean of the Yale School of Art,” Kersels said. “With her many strengths and comprehensive background in art education at the university level, she will nurture the next generation of artists to make work that responds to and reflects the contemporary ethos. I look forward to working with her.”

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