sfai news

May 19, 2011

SFAI Board of Trustees Appoints Charles Desmarais as President

The San Francisco Art Institute’s Board of Trustees has appointed Charles Desmarais as the President of SFAI following a national search. Currently the Deputy Director for Art at the Brooklyn Museum, Desmarais will assume his responsibilities at SFAI on August 1, 2011. Desmarais succeeds Roy Eisenhardt, who has served as Interim President since July 2010.

“We are thrilled to welcome Charles Desmarais as the new President of SFAI,” said Diane Frankel, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “His broad experience brings significant management, financial, and fundraising skills and successes to our institution. In addition, Charles has played a major role in American and international art through the institutions he has led and through his writing and curatorial work.”

Desmarais joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2005, overseeing all curatorial departments, conservation, collections, exhibition management, and the education division. Under his leadership, the museum has emphasized the dual goals of scholarship and public engagement, becoming a recognized leader in using new technologies and innovative strategies to increase audience participation. From 1995 to 2004, Desmarais served as the Director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, revitalizing the institution and spearheading the planning and fundraising for a major new building designed by architect Zaha Hadid. When the building opened in 2003, The New York Times declared it “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the cold war.”

As President and Chief Executive Officer of SFAI, Desmarais will shape and implement the school’s strategic plan for long-term growth, strength, and sustainability. “I am honored to join an institution with a distinguished 140-year history and great promise for the future,” said Desmarais. “I look forward to working with the Board, faculty, staff, and students to enhance the school’s position as both a fundamental part of the Bay Area community and an active participant in the global art scene.”

Desmarais will also oversee SFAI’s academic programs, which emphasize rigorous studio practices and interdisciplinary studies. “Charles brings a great depth in arts leadership and an outstanding record as an advocate for artists to his new role as President,” said Jeannene Przyblyski, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs. “I look forward to working with him and learning from him as we build a dynamic vision for contemporary arts education at SFAI.”

Tony Labat, Director of SFAI’s MFA program, added: “I am very excited by the news. Charles will be a strong representative for SFAI, and has the important ability to build bridges between institutions. He comes to SFAI with a long history of involvement in the contemporary art landscape from coast to coast, including particularly deep knowledge of California art.”

From 1988 to 1994, Desmarais served as Director of the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California. In the 1980s, he directed the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside. The exhibition Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981, opening fall 2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, features an essay by Desmarais in the accompanying catalog. An accomplished critic and curator, Desmarais has written scores of articles and essays, and organized more than 50 exhibitions of the work of artists including Lee Friedlander, Paul Kos, Tim Hawkinson, Ron Mueck, and Ilene Segalove.

Desmarais is a native of New York, and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the State University of New York, Buffalo. He has also been a fellow at the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and participated in the Museum Management Institute program at the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Since 1985, Desmarais has been married to Kitty Morgan, Executive Editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

San Francisco Art Institute

Founded in 1871, SFAI is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools of higher education in contemporary art in the U.S. Focusing on the interdependence of thinking, making, and learning, SFAI’s academic and public programs are dedicated to excellence and diversity.

SFAI’s School of Studio Practice concentrates on developing the artist’s vision through studio experiments and is based on the belief that artists are an essential part of society. It offers a BFA, an MFA, and a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Design and Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture.

SFAI’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies is motivated by the premise that critical thinking and writing, informed by an in-depth understanding of theory and practice, are essential for engaging contemporary global society. It offers degree programs in History and Theory of Contemporary

Art (BA and MA), Urban Studies (BA and MA), and Exhibition and Museum Studies (MA only).

From March 2011 through June 2012, SFAI will honor its distinguished history and contributions to the world of art with a 140th Anniversary celebration featuring lectures, screenings, events, and exhibitions. The celebration also offers alumni and friends worldwide an opportunity to reconnect with the institution as part of its planning for the next 140 years.