Crystal Williams, a professor and poet, has been appointed the next dean of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the nation’s top art schools. Williams, who was selected from a pool of 100 candidates, will assume the position of the school’s 18th principal on April 1. Never before in the school’s 144-year history has a Black president.
Since 2017, Williams has been vice president and associate of community support and inclusion at Boston University, where she has led accessibility and equity initiatives across 17 of the school’s campuses.
Prior to joining Boston University, where she was also a professor of English, Williams held senior leadership roles at Bates College in Maine and Reed College in Oregon. In addition to her administrative role in the academy, she also wrote poetry. Her 2014 episode Detroit as Barn a finalist for the National Order of Poetry, among other awards, and last year she was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to write a response to a painting by Faith Ringgold American Series #20: Die (In 1967).
Michael Spalter, chairman of the board of directors of RISD, said in a statement, “Crystal shares our strong beliefs about the important role art and design play in shaping our world. , and she has the expertise and leadership qualities needed to meet the urgency of this moment and RISD into the future. ”
“Arts, education, equity and justice are the three fundamental focuses of my life,” Williams said in a statement, calling the appointment to the premier arts academy a “deep honor sharp”.
Williams will take over from Rosanne Somerson, who retired in June after six years leading the school. Somerson is now RISD’s first honorary president. RISD Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Dave Proulx has since acted as interim president.
In July 2020, after the school’s Coalition Against Racism and BIPOC faculty raised concerns about structural racism, RISD promised significant changes. A few months later, the school committed to adding at least 10 new faculty members specializing in academic areas related to race, decolonization, and cultural representation. One big gift from an anonymous donor is to sponsor the salaries of new hires for 5 years.
The hiring of Williams comes as art schools across the United States diversify into their top ranks. In June, Kymberly Pinder was Dean’s name of the Yale School of the Arts, the nation’s premier MFA program. Pinder was the first woman of color to lead that school.
https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/crystal-williams-risd-president-1234613813/ Crystal Williams Named New RISD President – ARTnews.com