UI College of Fine and Applied Arts' new dean big on outreach

UI College of Fine and Applied Arts' new dean big on outreach

CHAMPAIGN — The Krannerts — both the performing arts center and the art museum — are the public face of the University of Illinois College of Fine and Applied Arts, and its new dean hopes to build on that approach with other units to fulfill a five-year strategic plan recently developed by faculty.

"They're our front-facing entities, and rightly so," said Kevin Hamilton. "They're out there connecting with schools and the community. We can really build on that."

Hamilton, a longtime UI professor, was named Friday to a three-year appointment as dean, pending approval by the UI trustees. He will earn $215,000 annually.

A UI faculty member since 2002, Hamilton is a professor of new media in the School of Art and Design and a senior associate dean for the college, which includes seven units ranging from dance, theater and art to architecture and urban planning.

He said the college's strategic plan emphasizes more outreach and public partnerships, and he's eager to help faculty members take that on through new curricula, new research approaches and possibly a new center on campus.

"What I bring to the work is really deep knowledge of the campus and the community," he said. "I'm a believer in staying in place and working with the connections that we build here. It's one of the best assets in the community."

Many fine arts colleges at land-grant research institutions like the UI are setting up centers to collaborate with public or private partners or other disciplines across campus to tackle problems such as storm water runoff or including the arts in municipal planning, he said.

Hamilton served as a provost fellow during the most recent academic year, working to develop campus programs to facilitate conversations on divisive topics.

Last year, he worked with black students to present a screening of a video shot at the UI in 1968 dealing with student unrest on campus, then hosted a conversation with current students, faculty and administrators on similar topics.

"This campus was struggling with the same matters it is struggling with today," he said.

He also led groups looking at best practices for hosting controversial speakers and developing a campus statement on free speech, which is still being finalized.

"I'm a big believer in dialogue, not only as a key to addressing disagreements but also as a key to building strong communities and relationships," Hamilton said.

His work has earned support from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois Arts Council.

Trained in architecture, Hamilton's background is in public art. In addition to his art career, he has published on the role of photography in nuclear-weapons research and on perception of bias in algorithmic systems.

In the dean's office, Hamilton was instrumental in overhauling the promotion and tenure process and has been an advocate for diversity and inclusion, officials said.

Hamilton holds appointments in the Media and Cinema Studies program in the College of Media, and has held campus fellowships at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Center for Advanced Study.

Provost Andreas Cangellaris recommended Hamilton as dean after a national search that ran throughout the last academic year.

"I am confident that Professor Hamilton's leadership and experience will translate to even better experiences for all FAA students and faculty," Cangellaris said in a release.

Hamilton replaces Peter Mortensen, who has been interim dean for the past year.

Previously, Kathleen Harleman served as acting dean and then interim dean after former Dean Ed Feser was named interim provost in 2015.

Feser was later named provost and then left the UI for Oregon State University.