Beginnings | Tink Adams and the Thirties
While originally the vision and obsession of one man, Art Center's founding and subsequent history can also be properly viewed as very much a piece and a part of their times. From its birth in the 30's to its adolescence in the 40's and '50s and then into institutional maturity in the decades that followed, Art Center grew up on three different campuses in southern California and, for a decade, one in Europe. In addition to its physical growth, Art Center has also grown from the extended shadow cast by one man to one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. It's a particularly American story.
Art Center was conceived and started in 1930 as a thoroughly modern art school. It was an art school that was serious; an art school for dedicated students and no-nonsense teachers; an art school that would train artists to be successful in the burgeoning and boisterous world of commerce; and an art school that could be depended upon to supply highly skilled, instantly productive designers and commercial artists for the new and emergent world of modern manufacturing, distribution, advertising, and communications. Even as the US economy was tumbling into the most frightening economic depression in history, there was a lot going on in design, both in the United States and in the wider world.
The Bauhaus was almost at the end of its storied but short-lived existence. The work of the contemporary artists known as the "New York School" was signaling a shift in the art world's center of gravity from Europe to a brash America. Motion picture pioneers were transforming the entertainment industry and early experiments in a new medium to be called "television" were in their early stages. Philip Johnson was organizing his seminal exhibition on modern architecture and modernism for the Museum of Modern Art. Troubled by the ominous drift of popular politics in Germany, designers, artists, and other creative people there began to see a brighter future in emigration to America than in remaining on the Continent.
They brought with them radical new ideas about the role even the centrality of design in the emergent age of mass production, mass consumption, and mass alienation. And they brought with them a stark and startling new esthetic, one that thoroughly renounced the stylistic, class-signifying and decorative excesses of lingering Victoriana. These immigrant designers, artists, and architects brought an entirely new and powerful strain of thinking onto an American scene which, itself, was dominated in design by such figures as Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, and Norman Bel Geddes.
Art Center was conceived and founded to be as much a repudiation of and an alternative to then-contemporary education practice in studio art as it was to be an embodiment and expression of a specific new philosophy. Art Center was not for the sensitive "artiste", intent on finding himself. It was not for the ivory-tower professor, innocent of the rough-and-tumble of the marketplace and intent on tenure and academic politics. It was not for those who did not fervently believe in the power and responsibility of art to enliven manufacturing, commerce, advertising, and communications and bring the enlightening benefits of art into the lives and homes of ordinary Americans.
Art Center's founder was not an artist or an academic or a philosopher. He was an advertising man, one who had done very well in a career in New York and Chicago, but who had found his own education in art to have been all but irrelevant in his work as an art director in this radical and rapidly growing new field. His name was Edward A. Adams, but he was known by everyone as "Tink" a shortened version of a nickname he had earned as a child because of his inveterate tinkering with machinery of all kinds. A native of Arizona, Adams had returned home from New York and Chicago to recuperate from a serious illness and, while recovering, he pondered his future. Where exactly the idea of starting an art school came from no one is sure. But, based on his doctor's recommendation and his own intuition about the future, Adams chose Los Angeles to do it in.
He had respiratory problems, and the air over Los Angeles was then clear, dry and healthful. Determined that the inadequacies of his own art education serve as a model of what not to do and that his new art school both reflect and embody the contemporary practice of art for commerce (as he had himself experienced in the advertising industry), Adams chose a site on 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles, not too far away from Los Angeles's other art schools, Otis and Chouinard's. Filled with galleries, restaurants, and shops, It was a district then known as the "art center" of Los Angeles and Adams, a straightforward man in many matters, called his new enterprise simply the "Art Center School."
He opened the doors in the autumn of 1930 with 12 teachers either recruited from the competition or else people actually working in the fields in which they were to teach and 8 students. But his ideas that there should be a serious art school that prepared artists for the real world; and that its teachers should be a faculty of working professionals rather than a traditional academic faculty proved popular. By the end of the first decade the enrollment was approaching 500 students who were studying in thriving programs like advertising design, commercial illustration, fashion illustration, commercial photography, industrial design and, perhaps most prophetically, automotive design.
Post-War Growth and the Move to Third Street
Art Center's facilities were given over to the war effort in 1941 and normal operations of the school were temporarily suspended. But when it reopened in 1945, the demand from the hundreds of thousands of GI's returning from the Pacific theater overwhelmed all of California's education institutions, including Art Center. With the GI Bill paving the way and paying the bills, higher education all over the country boomed. Soon, rapidly growing enrollment forced the school to move to larger quarters. Adams and his cohorts settled into a Tudor-esque building that had been a private school for girls in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles on West Third Street.
Many of the predominant themes in the Art Center culture either emerged or were reinforced during this period, 1945-1955.
It was when the school adopted its unique calendar of year-'round operations no summer vacations at Art Center! It was when the school's famous work ethic became firmly entrenched: the GI's were grown-ups, intent on getting the skills and training they needed and wanted in order to start their careers and support their families. It was when the pattern and practice of close collaboration with industry was established. Leading figures such as Ansel Adams, Alvin Lustig and Kem Weber were attracted to the business-like atmosphere of the school and the seriousness of its students. And, since Adams was fiercely independent, it was when the streak in Art Center's personality of "going it alone" was firmly established: this would be an institution that would be beholden to no one in exchange for their proffered donations. "Let's get one thing straight," Adams was reported to have once said to an automotive executive visiting from Detroit, "you need us more than we need you." For those who would follow Adams, and who would see the critical need for modern fund-raising to provide the additional resources necessary to build a greater and more enduring institution, this attitude from Art Center's early days, lingering on as it did, rendered their task that much more difficult.
In 1955 Adams and Art Center received an invitation that would have a profound influence on the college's future. Postwar Japan was in its tenth year of recovery and, through its mysterious process of national consensus-building, had decided that its economic future lay in manufacturing primarily for export markets. But with that ambition came the frank realization that the current output of its factories was anything but desirable in markets beyond its borders. Two of Japan's ministries initiated a program of research and discovery around the world and one of them invited leading figures in design, finance, manufacturing and business education to visit Japan, observe, lecture, and teach. Late that year Adams, along with transportation design chair George Jergenson and product design chair John Coleman spent six weeks in Japan, giving lectures and demonstrations about modern techniques in industrial design.
The next year Adams presented the Japanese with a report of their observations and recommendations. (To read that report today is to recognize how far Japan has come as a modern nation in the intervening forty years, and how prescient Adams was about what would take it there.) More important than the brochure, however, was the start of a flow of new students from Japan who came to Art Center (as well as to other leading design schools) to study and learn. These young men, educated in both Japan and America, returned to Japan and became the design leaders in Japan's economic renaissance. From the late 50s to the present, some of Art Center's strongest and most enduring relationships have been with Japanese designers and Japanese companies.
And, in the early 70s when Toyota became the first of the Japanese companies (the first of any companies, for that matter) to establish automotive design and product development studios on foreign soil, it was to California and to Art Center that they turned for help and support.
Within the school, evolutionary change continued. A graphic design program emerged in the late 50s and early 60s, separate from either advertising or illustration. Environmental design emerged in the late . 60s as a concentration within industrial design. A film program was spawned out of the advertising program in the mid-70s. In each of these new programs, as in the original ones, the Art Center philosophy of maintaining close contact with the real world, the professions and the professionals, remained intact. Graduates of the school began to make their impact and were especially visible in the automotive industry, where Art Center graduates soon came to dominate the studios of Detroit.
In 1963 Adams, who along with his wife, Virginia, and a few close associates had led and run the school as a virtual fief for three decades, brought in one of its brightest young graduates as his assistant. Don Kubly had grown up in Pasadena; had been a pilot in the European theater of World War II; and had been one of Art Center's best students ever. Adams had assisted Kubly to land a job at the legendary Philadelphia agency, N.W.Ayer, upon graduation and now, 17 years later, Adams invited Kubly back. He was presumed by many to be Adams's hand-picked heir-apparent.
From Los Angeles to Pasadena and From Tink Adams to Don Kubly
Art Center gained full accreditation in the '50s and through that decade and the next continued to thrive and grow. It soon had reached the limits permitted by its location in a residential neighborhood. To some extent Adams, but especially Kubly began thinking about making another move to yet larger quarters. With the encouragement of Sherman Fairchild, who was a friend of Adams's and chairman of the board at the time, the school began scouting new locations in the Los Angeles area. In 1969 they settled on the college's present 175-acre site in Pasadena's Linda Vista foothills, overlooking the Arroyo Seco and the Rose Bowl. With a gift from Fairchild, Art Center purchased what had been the largest part of the estate of Wesley Dumm, who was said to have wanted to preserve some open land in the highly desirable and rapidly filling residential neighborhood. (It may be apocryphal, but Dumm was also said to have sold the land at far below its market value and only on the condition that it not be called the "Dumm Campus" of Art Center College of Design the original name, "Art Center School," having by now given way to the more mature and comprehensive designation.)
In the dramatic hillside site Kubly saw the opportunity to create a pure, purpose-built facility for the teaching of art and design the Art Center way. And he found a kindred spirit in Craig Ellwood, a Los Angeles building designer then following in the footsteps of architects like Schindler, Neutra, Lautner, and Eames who had brought Modernism to southern California architecture and design. Ellwood had designed a number of office buildings and residences, but this was to be his largest commission his mature statement as an artist and what he wanted the building-design phase of his career to be remembered for and by. In a profound gesture of homage to Mies van der Rohe and taking their cue from the possibilities the rugged hillside terrain offered, Ellwood and Kubly conceived of a campus and a structure that would be an apotheosis of high Modernism; one that would be both a giant, single, industrial-style building; one whose central feature and metaphor was a spectacular bridge spanning a small ravine.
In Art Center's first major fund-raising effort, Kubly, his new colleagues in development who had been recruited from Caltech, and with the continuing generous support of Sherman Fairchild, raised approximately $3 million, primarily from the automobile industry. This plus Fairchild's continuing gifts plus the proceeds from the sale of the Third Street campus gave Kubly enough to proceed. In 1971 Art Center received permission to build the new school on the hillside site.
While Kubly had been functioning as the school's chief executive officer for a number of years, he was formally named president in 1972. Although Adams's declining health and failing eyesight prohibited him from day-to-day involvement, he remained in close touch with the school and its people until his death in 1981 and his widow and partner in the school, Virginia Legakes Adams, remained involved for many years after that. Construction of the new campus began in 1972 and the building itself began to rise from the heavily sculpted hillside site in 1974. Its final design and detailing had been resolved by Jim Tyler and Steve Woolley, two young architects in the Ellwood office. But because of the effects of rampant inflation, which were eating daily into Art Center's cash assets, the building's size was trimmed before construction began.
In 1976 the new building was finished and Art Center College of Design moved from its cramped and cozy digs on Third Street into the stark and dramatic black steel-and-glass box in the Pasadena hills. With no trees or foliage to give it scale and soften its relentless rectilinearity and clearly visible from the neighborhoods below and across the arroyo, the building was derided by some as "Ellwood's Choo-Choo" because of its trestle-bridge-like appearance and praised to the skies by others as the very summit of high Modernist expression. Love it or hate it, nobody seemed to be neutral or unaffected by this stunning architectural statement.
Enrollment at the time of the move was about 750 students, but the building had been conceived and sized to accommodate up to 1500. Enrollment did in fact grow steadily through the late 70's and into the early 80's and the Art Center reputation for turning out designers and commercial artists who were highly skilled, highly disciplined, and immediately productive in the business world continued to solidify.
But as history has taught again and again, a strength that becomes too strong can sometimes tip over into a weakness. In the school's unmatched reputation for professional-quality preparation of its students, Art Center's critics found fertile soil for grousing. Graduates were respected more for their "wrists" their uniformly superb skills at visual presentation than for their minds or their creativity and originality or for their leadership potential. An "Art Center portfolio" was instantly recognizable; its superb display of craft, spectacular drawing, and rendering skills predominated, the critics contended, over content and concept. "Too slick," many said. And even harsher, "No substance." Of course, there are two sides at least to every story and Art Center's many advocates and defenders dismissed these criticisms as so much sour grapes; these were unfounded canards leveled by people whose educations in design had prepared them only to talk not to perform in the demanding world of modern design and the fast-paced commercial arts.
50 Years and Europe Comes Calling
The year 1980 was a momentous one for Art Center. The college's 50th anniversary was marked by a number of events and highlighted by "Carrozzeria Italiana" an exhibition of Ferraris and an unabashed celebration of automotive design. That same year Kubly was approached with an intriguing proposition. Represented by an intermediary to Xavier Karcher, the then-c.e.o. of Citroen, several of the European automotive companies expressed an interest in having Art Center establish a branch campus in Europe. Their stated need was to provide European students with access to the Art Center way of training automotive designers.
At the time there were only two such programs in all of Europe: the Royal College of Art in London and a university program at Phorzheim, near Mercedes Benz headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Kubly was immediately taken with the idea. He saw it as a great opportunity to take the Art Center training regimen to a higher level of international recognition. He thought it would offer a unique opportunity for American students to study abroad in a curriculum and environment similar to the one in Pasadena. He welcomed the possibility of European-trained students into the mix in California. Some said privately that he saw in it an opportunity to rise to and equal his predecessor's achievement, to be remembered by history as a man who had also started his own new art and design school just as Tink Adams his teacher, mentor, and former boss had done a half-century earlier.
Kubly and two of his senior executives, Joseph Henry and Patricia Cummings, an expatriate Brit, began exploring possible sites for the new European campus. Although northern Italy seemed plausible and attractive, Fiat's and the controlling Agnelli family's interest and sponsorship never materialized. Besides, as Kubly and his associates quickly discovered, Europe's automotive industry was as individualistic and even nationalistic as the countries in which they were based. There was a process of elimination: Great Britain already had a trans design school and wasn't really part of "Europe" anyway. Neither France nor Germany could be candidates because if the school were to be located in one, students from the other might be hesitant to come.
The Scandinavian countries were judged too small and too remote. Belgium might one day be interesting as the then-proposed headquarters for a future European union, but it was also small and had utterly no tradition or culture in design. And there was another issue: fund-raising. It seemed unlikely that a French company would support the school if it were in Germany and vice versa. Eventually Kubly settled on Switzerland. It was neutral. It was central. It was solid and safe and predictable. It had something of a tradition in machinery engineering and industrial design. It had a very strong tradition in graphic design and typography. Through an intermediary Kubly learned that a 19th century chateau, on the shores of Lac Leman in the French-speaking region of the small mountain confederation known as the "Swiss Riviera", might be available for the new school to rent.
While Kubly and his team were focusing on Europe and away for long periods of time fund-raising and evaluating possible sites, concerns began to emerge on the Pasadena campus. It seemed to some among the faculty, department chairs, students and staff that the European venture had replaced Pasadena as their president's first priority. They wondered why the money being raised in Europe would not directly benefit them. They were concerned about the feasibility of Kubly's ambitious plan: a fully functioning, self-sufficient design college of over 400 students in four majors transportation design, product design, graphic design, and advertising design all to be achieved in less than three years.
They were dubious about even Art Center's vaunted ability to attract entering classes of roughly 60 students per term, every term, right from the beginning, especially given that higher education in most European countries was virtually free and Art Center would have to charge a hefty tuition in order to be financially viable and independent. And, though Kubly repeatedly assured everyone that the European campus would be completely financially independent of Pasadena and would have only a positive impact on the college's financials, there were many who simply did not believe this was possible. On the subject of the European campus Kubly was optimistic, energetic, and persuasive. Europe would give Art Center a position in the marketplace enjoyed by no other design school. It would extend the college's reach, attract new students, enroll new sponsors and supporters. The combination of experience in both America and in Europe would make the school's graduates doubly attractive in a marketplace that was rapidly going global. In the emerging future, "design" was the international language, and Art Center grads were going to be more fluent than anyone in it. Work on the European campus went forward. A start-up staff was assembled. Recruiters roamed Europe making presentations and lining up students. Architecture and renovation planning were commissioned on the Chateau de Sully and the farm building adjacent to it. Start-up funding continued to be sought from European companies and a good portion of what had already been raised was now being spent on the planning and start-up activities.
By early 1984 the European campus project had reached a critical juncture. The Swiss were demanding that Art Center sign the lease on the property and move forward with the project. The early European sponsors Citroen, Peugeot, Ford of Europe, GM Europe, Nestle, the Union Bank of Switzerland were wondering when the school would get going. The Pasadena campus roiled with controversy. Passions on both sides those who were in favor of the ambitious plan and those who urged more caution ran high. Finally, there was a resolution. Kubly was given the go-ahead to proceed with the European campus and at the same time he agreed to bring his long and eventful tenure as Art Center's second president to a close. Though remarkably youthful and vigorous, he was approaching 70 and had been running the school for more than two decades, 13 of them as president years that had been filled with momentous change and growth for the college. Conceiving of the Pasadena campus, building it, and moving the school were significant accomplishments. Conceiving of a companion campus in Europe, raising money from European industry for it, and launching it were significant accomplishments. But there was perhaps a more important achievement: Kubly took what had for its entire existence been essentially a family enterprise, the extended shadow cast by Tink Adams (and his wife, Virginia), and turned it into a viable enterprise that could outlive its founder. Kubly made it possible for Art Center to go on as an institution, beyond the influence or term of any single individual who participated in it. Kubly made it possible for there to be an orderly transition in leadership and the opportunity for the next generation to make its contribution to the college, and that is precisely what happened next.
Art Center's Third President: An Unlikely Transplant from the East
With the help of a national executive search consultant, Art Center's board of trustees cast its net very wide for candidates to succeed Kubly the person who would become only the third president in the college's history. While not explicitly excluding career academic administrators, the board clearly preferred "non-traditional" candidates for the position, hewing to that strain in the Art Center culture that led its people to consider the college and its rigorous, pre-professional programs to be deliberately and sensibly outside the mainstream of traditional academia. Their ultimate choice verified that. In August of 1985 Art Center chose David R. Brown to become its third president.
Brown fit exactly none of the requirements with which the board had initiated the search except that he was a decidedly non-traditional candidate. Not a designer; not a graduate of Art Center; with no experience in higher education; too young at 39 to be seriously considered for a college presidency; no experience in fund-raising; never having lived or worked farther west than West End Avenue in New York City and therefore utterly new to Los Angeles, Brown was nevertheless the unanimous choice of the board. A native of Maine, Brown was at the time the vice president for creative services and communications for Champion International Corporation, one of the world's largest paper companies.
He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and had earned an MA from Trinity College in Hartford. By profession a writer, Brown had been the managing partner in a graphic design firm; a freelance writer who had worked extensively with the top designers in New York and major corporations in the east; and he had been elected the youngest president in the history of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the nation's professional association of graphic designers.
At Champion, which had earned a national reputation for excellence in design and communications, Brown's responsibilities included design, advertising, marketing communications, corporate communications, public affairs, and the company's many programs in support of the arts, particularly its long relationship with the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Brown arrived at Art Center in December of 1985. He quickly moved the European project forward and also launched a broad-based program of investment in and energizing of the college in Pasadena. His primary focus was on extending the breadth, depth, and intellectual content of the programs at Art Center, supplementing but not denying the fabled Art Center reputation in visualization skills. At bottom, he wanted to put the verbal content the concept and the words into the extraordinary visual creative ability of Art Center students. Drawing on his background as a writer working collaboratively with graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators, Brown recognized very early the promise, potential, and technological urgency of computers in the creative process. With the help of a large gift from General Motors, Brown began to aggressively establish Art Center as a leader in the adoption and application of digital technology in the processes of creativity, visualization, design and design education. With experience as a manager and organization leader, Brown initiated a full-scale modernization of the college's administrative practices and financial systems; embarked on an aggressive program of communications and marketing; and began building the development staff in order to ramp up fund-raising to support the ambitious agenda.
With a revitalized position in the marketplace, enrollment at Art Center grew with student demand. The computers that were multiplying monthly needed laboratories. The invigorated program of corporate-sponsored design research projects needed space. New programs and facilities were added; what had once been programs grew into majors: in fine art at the graduate level; in environmental design; in product design and they all needed space. The way Brown saw the building as a giant tool-box and studio for creative learning also required more space. Between 1989 and 1992, the Art Center building was completed by James Tyler to Ellwood's and his own original design with the construction of the new South Wing.
The new facilities expanded Art Center by one-third and provided an entire floor of computer laboratories to support the exploding computer-graphics program. At the same time, a world-class gallery for the exhibition of top-level work by professional designers and artists was added to center of the Art Center building, strengthening an exhibition program begun in the mid-70s that had previously and somewhat awkwardly shared space with the transportation design program. In the same year Art Center completed its previously announced $25 million fund-raising campaign. Although the amount was roughly three times what had been required to build the original building, and although it addressed real needs like facilities, computer hardware and software, and current scholarships, this first "campaign" also had the effect of highlighting just how many and how pressing the needs for resources were within this new and ambitious version of Art Center. And no need was revealed more acutely than Art Center's need for a substantial endowment perhaps the one asset that characterizes and supports America's most serious and most successful colleges and universities.
Meanwhile, the new college that had been named Art Center (Europe) and was now established in a beautiful lakeside campus in the Canton of Vaud, La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland, was growing but much more slowly than had been visualized by Kubly and his team. In 1987 Brown had asked Joseph R. Henry, Kubly's close associate and a key member in the development phase of the new college, to become Art Center (Europe)'s first director. Henry, in turn, selected as education director Uwe Bahnsen, a distinguished German automotive designer who had risen through the ranks to become the head of design for Ford of Europe. Bahnsen would succeed Henry as director three years later. With the help of loans supplied by Art Center in Pasadena, Art Center (Europe) by 1992 had reached an enrollment level of close to 300 students and was at last verging on financial self-sufficiency. But much earlier than that, the young college had begun to establish a reputation as an excellent new source of design talent in Europe. This was to be Art Center (Europe)'s legacy: as an educational institution, a brilliant success; as a financially viable and self-sufficient enterprise, ultimately a failure.
Trouble in Europe; Trouble at Home
In 1993 enrollment at the European campus began to drift lower and Art Center (Europe) fell back into the red. Europe had changed. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall had ushered in a new period of economic and political uncertainty. Europe's economy began to fall off. Talk of a "united Europe," originally targeted for 1992, waned. While the Pasadena campus continued to hum along, the campus in Europe was hurting. And once again trouble in Europe bred trouble at home. From the board of trustees, which had been aggressively enlarged by Brown through the recruitment of a number of prominent chief executive officers, through some quarters among the faculty and alumni, there were growing concerns. Some were concerned about the situation in Europe. Some were concerned about Brown's radical commitment to computer technology and were opposed to it. Some feared that Brown's ambitions to establish yet another Art Center campus, this one in Japan, would stretch the institution's resources to the breaking point. Some felt Brown's performance in fund-raising, while exceeding that which had preceded him, was still characterized more by potential than by performance. Some felt that Brown's focus on concept and content was diluting Art Center's core competence in visualization and model-making skills. Some felt the school had simply grown too large, too complex, too ambitious; that it had outgrown its own roots. The criticism from some quarters was, "You just can't identify an Art Center portfolio anymore." But what was intended as criticism in some quarters was taken as high praise in others.
Over the course of the next two years, Art Center went through another period of change as profound as any in its illustrious history. Consultants brought in exonerated Brown of the more extreme charges that had been leveled against his administration but also recommended a sweeping agenda for change, beginning with the board itself. Of the many internal changes that had been recommended, two were especially significant. One, the creation of a "provost" position which was the norm at most other colleges and universities, would for the first time in the college's history remove Art Center's president from day-to-day involvement in and direct supervision of the college's curriculum, department chairs, faculty, and education practice. The second, a senior position in advancement, was a unification and strengthening of the college's development activities and a further step toward creating a more professional and more effective fund-raising capability.
Following the reorganization, Brown and his senior staff drafted a strategic plan for the college's future in 1995. It was an ambitious vision, a daunting agenda, and it carried with it a multi- million-dollar fund-raising price-tag. Called for was the creation of three new programs in animation and dynamic visual information design; in digital media at the undergraduate level; and in design for the entertainment industry. To accommodate the new programs and to provide badly needed additional space for the existing majors, a substantial expansion in physical plant would be required. In addition, the plan envisioned another large increase in scholarship support (which during Brown's tenure had already increased from a few hundred thousand dollars per year to nearly $3 million); programs and funds for faculty recognition and development; a major step forward in endowment and financial strength. The plan document summarized these various initiatives as providing the Art Center of the future and the students and faculty who would comprise it with "room to grow" intellectually, creatively, and physically.
European Dreams Denied
The confidence and ambition of the long-range strategy for the college in Pasadena was darkly mirrored by a deteriorating situation at the campus in Europe. Despite the best efforts of everybody on both sides of the Atlantic, the slow drift downward of Art Center (Europe)'s enrollment figures continued.
Art Center (Europe)'s need for cash was approaching $1 million per semester. Brown and the board replaced the retiring Uwe Bahnsen with John Littlewood, a Briton who had had international experience in advertising and marketing, and who had come to Art Center to chair the advertising program in Pasadena. Littlewood initiated a flurry of activities, internal and external, aimed at stemming the decline. His efforts culminated with an all-out fund-raising blitz in the spring of 1996. Twenty-six major corporations in Europe, from automotive to consumer products to package goods (several of whom had been early supporters of the start-up) were approached with proposals. If just two or three would say, "yes," Art Center (Europe) might have been able to continue. But from 26 proposals there were 26 "no's." Brown and the trustees of the European campus felt they had no alternative but to close the school.
In April Brown made what he has since called "the single most difficult thing [he had] ever done in professional life": the announcement to the entire Art Center (Europe) community that their school would close at the end of the spring semester. In part due to generous financial assistance packages and in part due to their resilience and commitment, of the 200 or so students still enrolled at the time of the announcement, 193 decided to come to the campus in southern California to finish their studies either the very next term or in the fall. Such a surge of new students into Pasadena representing an instant increase in enrollment of almost 15% put a tremendous strain on the college's resources, facilities, faculty and staff. But the Art Center community rose to and met the challenge: their sense of obligation and responsibility to these students who had been dispossessed through no fault of their own was overwhelming.
Enter Change Once More
In 1996-7, the board of trustees granted Brown a one-year sabbatical leave. A year after returning, Brown decided that he would not seek another contract once his current one ended in 2000. It was, he said, time for a change both for the college and for himself. After 14 years of dramatic change; after having awarded some 5,500 degrees, equal to about half of all the graduates Art Center had ever produced; after having driven Art Center forward in both intellectual stature and in technology; after having opened the school in Europe and then having faced the horrible necessity for closing it; Brown said he felt that he had given all that he had to give. The college's ambitious strategic agenda and the fund-raising necessary to realize it would have to become the agenda for a new president.
On September 7, 1999 the college's fourth president, Richard Koshalek, assumed his duties. Koshalek, formerly director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, was selected by the board from a field of seven finalists after an international search for the right person lead Art Center into the twenty-first century. Of his decision to come to Art Center, Koshalek said: "For many years I have been keenly aware of, and interested in, the mission and achievements of Art Center. The college has an enormously gifted faculty and students in virtually every visual discipline, and every discipline taught at the school is of great personal interest to me. This alone would make me eager to go there, but there are other factors as well. It's commonplace knowledge that we live in a world that is changing at a dizzying rate. More than ever, artists and designers are assuming a kind of 'alchemist' role in this world. No longer are they concerned merely with 'objects' as creative ends, but with concepts and processes and the ways these affect the environment we live in. In short, the creative person an artist, a designer can also be a problem-solver at the most fundamental levels that address the larger world. As with most endeavors, it's the best-trained artists and designers who will have the best solutions. Education at the highest level which Art Center has always stood for and which can flourish even more is at the root of our future, more than ever. Education that fosters creativity and the diversity inherent to true, individual creativity is exactly what I hope to encourage in my presidency at Art Center."
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