Ravi S. Rajan, Dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase College, and a highly regarded artist whose work reaches across disciplines, has been selected as the fourth president of California Institute of the Arts.
Rajan will begin his tenure June 1, 2017, and succeed President Steven Lavine.
“I’m humbled by this opportunity, excited to be a part of this great community, and I look forward to building upon the innovative pedigree of CalArts,” said Rajan.
After evaluating more than 500 applicants, Rajan was appointed in a unanimous vote by the CalArts Board of Trustees, who were advised by a committee encompassing the entire CalArts community.
Rajan will be the first Asian American president of CalArts, one of the world’s premier arts colleges. His innovative and thoughtful leadership, in addition to passion and vision for arts education, aligns with the CalArts community, said Tim Disney, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Ravi shows the fiery passion for the arts that was at the core of CalArts founding,” continued Disney. “His commitment to excellence and exploration and innovation will help continue CalArts rich legacy and unbounded future.”
Rajan’s education included undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, before going on to graduate work at Yale. He then launched into a dynamic career combining artistic practice and campus leadership. In addition to executive roles in higher education, Rajan is also a noted collaborator in the production of art, music, theatre/dance, and film/video. He is a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, and President of the Asian American Arts Alliance.
Abigail Salling, a student representative on the presidential search committee, said Rajan was impressive during the interview process. “He was dynamic and energetic, and talked about diversity, student debt, and artistic experience. I think CalArts will be strong under his leadership. I’m excited to see where our school goes.”
David Roitstein, faculty trustee from The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, and also a member of the presidential search committee, echoed Salling’s assessment. “Ravi is exceptionally well-prepared for this role and I am very excited to work together with him.” Roitstein went on to compliment the search process, calling it “one of the highlights of my time at CalArts. It was open, diverse, and extraordinarily thorough.”
As Dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase, Rajan successfully proposed and guided a $100 million capital renovation of the Art + Design division’s facilities, the first such renovation in its history. His boundless advocacy helped strengthen the culture of philanthropy among supporters of the college, resulting in securing the largest individual donations to Purchase College since its founding. In an effort to foster change within the arts on a global scale, Rajan spearheaded the creation of a new MA in Entrepreneurship in the Arts, the first graduate degree of its kind in the world.
“Ravi brings the perfect combination of personal artistic commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, which is vital to CalArts, along with broad experience as an educator, and significant accomplishments as a senior administrator at Purchase College,” said CalArts’ President Steven Lavine. “I am thrilled he will be the person to lead CalArts into its future development as one of the great artistic and educational institutions in the world.”
Rajan will follow the 29-year tenure of President Lavine, whose leadership transformed CalArts into a world-class arts institution that consistently defines and shapes culture. Beginning his tenure in 1988 after leaving the Rockefeller Foundation, Lavine was instrumental in stabilizing the school’s financial footing and growing its endowment. He helped launch the Institute’s internationally renowned academic and instructional programs in dance, integrated media, master’s program in creative writing, and doctoral program in the musical arts.
“It’s impossible to think of CalArts without thinking of Steven,” stated Rajan. “I’ve always been in awe of how his leadership and collaboration allowed CalArts to transform into a global arts powerhouse. It’s my hope to continue the richness that he has helped to create and to dutifully guide CalArts through its next evolutionary step.”
Rajan will relocate to Los Angeles in the summer of 2017. He will be joined by his wife, Lucy Tucker Yates, a renowned opera singer, vocal and diction coach, and the couple’s two young sons, ages 3 and 7.
Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Led by a renowned faculty, CalArts offers rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six Schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater. CalArts has continually championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions.
"CalArts has made a wise choice in its selection of Ravi Rajan as the fourth president of the university. Ravi will do a terrific job leading the institution to new heights with his dynamic leadership style, passion for the citizen-artist, and ability to collaborate with diverse communities in higher education and the corporate world. I am confident CalArts will further ignite its flame as standard-bearer in quality arts education. Congratulations to CalArts, and to Los Angeles, for welcoming the best of New York to the Golden State."
—David N. Dinkins
106th Mayor, City of New York
"Ravi brings to CalArts a deep knowledge of the demands of artistic practice and innovation, and the concrete relationship between art and the political realities out of which it emerges. He is a fierce advocate for artists, and for the power of art to address the most pressing issues of our time. His skills are urgently needed as the country confronts the consequences of the political tragedy unfolding."
Filmmaker & Journalist
“Ravi is a wonderfully creative, innovative, and forward-thinking artist and administrator. Congratulations to CalArts on this fantastic hire: You could not have done better. I look forward to seeing what the next great chapter holds for both President Rajan and CalArts.”
—José Antonio Bowen, PhD, FRSA
President, Goucher College
“Ravi Rajan is an inspired choice as the new President of CalArts. Ravi’s role as a Tony Nominator has given me the chance to witness his intelligence and thoughtfulness up close. From a distance, I’ve long admired his visionary leadership as Dean of SUNY Purchase. He is uniquely qualified to take the reins of CalArts—an institution that is vitally important to the theatre community. Ravi’s work there will no doubt be a great benefit to all of us who love the art form.”
—Heather A. Hitchens
President & CEO, American Theatre Wing
"Ravi is a working artist who knows what it takes to successfully navigate as well as thrive in today's creative economy. In addition, he is deeply passionate about the critical role of the artist in society and aims to promote a multiplicity of voices that, collectively, tell our American story. The Pew Research Center forecasts that Asian Americans will be largest immigrant group by 2055—so the CalArts Board of Trustees is particularly forward-thinking in placing diversity and inclusion at the center of its work and in supporting leadership of color at the highest levels. No one is better suited to create the best learning environment for young artists than Ravi. I have been honored to work closely with him during his tenure as President of the Board at the Asian American Arts Alliance, and I continue to be inspired by his good humor, energy, enthusiasm, and steadfast belief in the power of arts and culture to transform lives and communities."
Executive Director, Asian American Arts Alliance
"As a playwright, Asian American, and native Angeleno, I couldn't be more excited about the choice of Ravi Rajan to head up CalArts. In my capacity as Chair of the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, I deeply value his judgement and taste as a Tony Nominator. America is rapidly transforming into a nation where people of color will constitute the majority population. Coming generations of artists will engage a range of stories and forms which reflect and speak to 21st Century America. Ravi embodies the future of our country, and the world. I'm thrilled CalArts has made such a smart and far-sighted choice.”
—David Henry Hwang
Playwright and Chair, American Theatre Wing
“Ravi Rajan possesses a magnetic and near-explosive energy that draws people toward him with his powerful vision for arts and culture in the US and throughout the world. I know, as I have been drawn into this orbit, and have, even in this later stage of my career, found myself producing work that I never imagined. CalArts will drive forward and thrive under his leadership.”
—James Undercofler, Interim Director
Conservatory of Music, SUNY Purchase
"Ravi Rajan is, in my view, a remarkable intellectual. His acute vision of the world and his insightful understanding of the challenges of education are today more necessary than ever. Having his exceptional intellect at the head of CalArts will, without a doubt, be crucial for generations of artists and creatives to come."
Internationally acclaimed artist
“Ravi Rajan impressed me as dynamic and energetic. During the interview process, he talked about diversity, student debt and experience. I think he will provide a future for CalArts that’s in line with the future that students envision. I think CalArts will be strong under his leadership. I’m excited to see where our school goes.”
Student Representative, Presidential Search Advisory Committee
“The Presidential Search Committee process was one of the highlights of my time at CalArts. It was open, diverse, and extraordinarily thorough. We considered a wide range of inspiring and highly qualified candidates and Ravi Rajan emerged as the next president of CalArts. Ravi is exceptionally well-prepared for this role and I am very excited to work together with him. He has a deep understanding of the complexity of this task, but embraces that aspect and has what it takes to lead CalArts into the next era.”
—David Roitstein, Faculty Trustee
The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts
“Serving on the Presidential Search Committee was a gratifying experience. Co-chairs Jamie Lynton and Jim Lovelace did an excellent job facilitating the process. The executive search team from Isaacson Miller presented a slate of talented and diverse candidates for the committee to consider for this important and prestigious appointment. Committee members were respectful of the process but more importantly respectful of the professional backgrounds represented on the committee, the varied opinions and insights shared by all during the year long process. Congratulations to our new president. The community looks forward to your leadership and vision for our future. Welcome to CalArts!”
—Charmagne Shearrill, Associate Vice President
Chief Human Resources Officer, CalArts
"When it’s time to stand up and play a critical solo, like a good college president must often do to advance the core mission of their constituency, a sense of determined authenticity, clarity, and stability must be evident immediately. From the outset of our meeting him, these traits trumpeted loudly from Ravi S. Rajan. His concise and to-the-point opening expressions were at once incisive, decisive, engaging, and reassuring. He seemed undaunted by the real challenges facing arts education today, to which he can apply rich and deep skills and experience with institutions and governments. He exhibited strength, forthrightness, and a convincing sense of purpose to help us sustain our core values and evolve our mission into the future. Added to this recipe for success we also observed the unmistakable presence of someone fueled by an artist’s curiosity and special kind of action imperative. Ravi S. Rajan comes to us from an intriguing and broad, interdisciplinary arts practice of his own. He understands and feels the multi-dimensional landscape of diversity in all its forms and knows the critical importance today of nurturing citizen artists. He doesn’t hold back, he says it like it is, and he revels in dissecting challenges collaboratively, while always exhibiting a good mix of authority with a healthy measure of humor. We have emerged from an inspiring, inclusive, and representative search process, and we look forward to all that we can accomplish together with Ravi S. Rajan as the next president of CalArts."
—David Rosenboom, Dean
The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts