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Art at the intersection

By Kevin Brown

Gunalan Nadarajan, who works at the intersection of the arts, science and technology, has been selected as dean of the School of Art & Design.

The current vice provost for research and dean of graduate studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore (MICA) has led his institution in several interdisciplinary collaborations on research and community projects. In this role, he holds the distinction of being the first senior academic leader dedicated to research appointed in an art college in the United States.

Provost Phil Hanlon says Nadarajan has made outstanding contributions in the interdisciplinary fields of art, science and technology through his scholarly research, curatorial work, teaching, professional consultancies and creative research projects.

Nadarajan (photo left) begins work in his new post effective July 1, pending approval of the Board of Regents.

His published work, conference papers and international lectures have embraced contemporary art, architecture, art history, robotic arts, critical theory, cyberculture, intersecting histories of art, science and technology, and most recently the changing role of arts and design research, Hanlon says. Nadarajan has curated international exhibitions in Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Germany, Mexico, the United States and New Zealand.

“President Mary Sue Coleman and I are very pleased that Gunalan Nadarajan will assume the leadership of the School of Art & Design at a time when the school and the university are committed to an interdisciplinary education for students,” Hanlon says. Nadarajan will work to enhance academic programs, improve physical and research capacities, further community outreach, and raise the national and international profile of the school, Hanlon adds.

Nadarajan was able to help spearhead several successful collaboration projects in his current position including health communication design with the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Baltimore City Health and a neuroeducation initiative in partnership with Johns Hopkins School of Education. Nadarajan also developed and submitted a National Endowment of the Arts Design Innovation grant application to support a community design studio to focus on the development of community-based solutions to food security issues in Baltimore. He serves as co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to establish a national Network for Science, Engineering, Art and Design to advocate for and facilitate innovative collaborations between these fields.

“I hope to lead the School of Art & Design in achieving greater national and international prominence as an educational institution that truly exemplifies what an art school could and needs to be in the 21st century — one that mobilizes creative practice as an engine for cultural change as well as innovation and enterprise, has a strong research presence and profile, and embraces other disciplines and fields in collaborative spirit to tackle the complex challenges of our times,” Nadarajan says.

As a student, Nadarajan earned undergraduate degrees from the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; a Master of Arts degree in continental philosophy specializing in aesthetics from University of Warwick, U.K., in 1994; and a Master of Social Sciences degree in sociology/anthropology from the National University of Singapore in 1997, where he began his career as a lecturer.

In 1996 he joined Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore as a senior lecturer and director of studies of art theory and art history. He was selected to be dean of visual arts in 2001, and in 2003 was designated as the founding dean of research and creative industries to develop research in art and design.

Nadarajan was recruited in 2005 by Pennsylvania State University to become associate dean for research and graduate studies and professor of art. He developed a plan of strategic interdisciplinary linkages with other colleges through research projects and other initiatives to increase research funds from external sources and enhance the research culture within the college.

Nadarajan was artistic co-director of the Ogaki Biennale in Japan in 2006 and artistic director of the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Singapore in 2008. He has authored, co-authored and edited several books and over 100 academic articles, book chapters, art catalogue essays and critical reviews. His writings have been translated into more than 12 languages.

He was recruited in 2008 to the newly created position of vice provost for research at MICA to help the institution develop research. In 2011 he also took on the role of dean of graduate studies, responsible for the strategic and operational management of 16 graduate programs in art, design and media, serving more than 300 students; an operating budget of more than $8 million; and three research centers.

Hanlon thanked Jim Cogswell, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of art, A&D, who chaired the search advisory committee, and the members of the committee for their service.

Kevin Brown is staff writer at the University Record.