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ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena says its president will retire

ArtCenter President Lorne M. Buchman.
ArtCenter President Lorne M. Buchman will retire in June 2022.
(ArtCenter)

ArtCenter College of Design President Lorne M. Buchman announced Monday that he plans to retire next year after 12 years leading the Pasadena institution, which has grown immensely but also struggled with diversity.

After Buchman joined ArtCenter in 2009, he increased the number of degree programs, built online programming and grew undergraduate and graduate enrollment by 32%. With a $100 million campaign goal, he raised $124 million from 2011 and 2019 — the largest fundraising effort in the college’s history — for scholarships, student services, the endowment and capital projects such as building renovations and the acquisition of learning spaces.

ArtCenter’s main location is tucked into the hills above the Rose Bowl. By 2015, Buchman finished growing the college’s South Campus, which consists of buildings on Arroyo Seco Parkway that added nearly 167,000 square feet of classroom, workshop and exhibition space. ArtCenter DTLA, a satellite exhibition and event space on Fourth and Main streets in downtown L.A., opened in spring 2019 in the space formerly occupied by the Main Museum. A studio classroom at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened in 2014.

“It’s been such a joy, absolutely the best job of my life,” Buchman said in an interview. “I’ve been so inspired by the community and deeply moved by the quality of the education. It’s made me believe what education can do in all kinds of ways.”

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ArtCenter board chair Su Mathews Hale said in a statement that the board was “indebted” to Buchman for his “superb and compassionate leadership.”

“The college has changed immeasurably over the years,” Mathews Hale said, “and the board commends Lorne for his countless successes as president.”

Buchman will stay in his role through June 30, 2022. The college said it has begun searching for his replacement, a process that will include input from students, faculty, staff and alumni. One topic is likely to arise: diversity.

The school, which is more than 90 years old, had graduated only 300 Black students in its history as of fall 2019 — accounting for about 1% of its alumni. In fall 2018, Black students made up 2% of the student body; that number had dropped to 1% by fall 2019.

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“It fluctuates because students enroll and graduate and you get a new incoming class, which might not be as representative as the previous class,” ArtCenter spokesman Jered Gold said. “We’re working on it.”

Addressing that troubled history, the college formed a Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Art and Design in 2018, led by Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce. In March 2020 the school launched the exhibition “90/300: A Measure of Representation, in Celebration of Cultural Influence,” featuring Black graduates working as artists and designers.

An ArtCenter-produced podcast that Buchman hosts, “Change Lab: Conversations on Transformation and Creativity,” last fall focused on Black artists, designers and “thought leaders,” such as activists and historians.

The board designated a “quasi-endowment” of $25 million in 2011 for scholarships, with an eye toward increasing diversity among incoming students and offering funds to students nearing graduation to help them finish.

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Growing diversity at ArtCenter, Buchman said, is “fundamental to the soul of the place.”

“This is the work before us and it has urgency now like it never has before,” he said. “The future work of the college really is about who as opposed to what we’re offering or where we’re offering it — it’s about who has access.”

ArtCenter’s classes have been held remotely since March 2020. The plan is to partially reopen this summer, with 25% of the students returning to campus.


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