Announcement – Kymberly Pinder, Dean of the Yale School of Art

June 1, 2021

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Kymberly Pinder as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art, effective July 1, 2021, pending final approval by the board of trustees. Professor Pinder, a graduate of Yale, will be returning to our community from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), where she is serving as the acting president.

An internationally recognized scholar of race, representation, and murals, her work is used widely in art history curricula across the country and has fostered new avenues of inquiry in her field. Her unique approach to her scholarship and practice as a curator demonstrates to students the importance of community engagement in the arts. In her most recent book, Painting the Gospel: Black Public Art and Religion in Chicago, she explores how Black imagery in the public sphere empowered communities in Chicago for the last century. This book reflects Professor Pinder’s consistent collaboration with local artists, from well-known muralists to anonymous graffiti writers. Working with different artists and local officials, she also has taught courses that have led to the creation of murals in Chicago and Albuquerque. Among her many other influential publications, Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History, a book she edited in 2002, has launched multidisciplinary studies on the role of race in art.

Professor Pinder is widely known for her deep commitment to teaching, which is rooted in her belief that an education is key to social mobility and to finding solutions to local and national challenges. As she encourages students to pursue excellence and nurtures their artistic aspirations, she also teaches them to examine carefully every facet of society. She has created new coursework that promotes critical thinking, forums for open discussion, and opportunities to produce and display works of art that bring insight to complex issues.  

A Yale alumna (she earned her Ph.D. from the Department of the History of Art), she is familiar with Yale’s distinctive focus on working across disciplines and sectors in teaching, scholarship, research, and practice. When she was a doctoral student here, she published and lectured on medievalism in North America, European gothic architecture, religious imagery, and African Americans and women in art. With the mentorship of Professors Jules Prown, Robert Farris Thompson, and Jean-Christophe Agnew, among others, she began studying different aspects of American identity formation and representation—this work continues to influence her scholarship and teaching today.

Having worked at the Cloisters in New York, she took many medieval art courses at Yale and has fond memories of visiting the Beinecke Library and working with the late Walter Cahn, who was the Carnegie Professor of the History of Art. For a few semesters, she lived very near the University Theatre and enjoyed access to the wonderful performances there and at the Yale Repertory Theatre. She values the lifelong friendships she formed in the graduate room of the Arts Library, and she continues to work on projects and launch initiatives with those early collaborators, many of whom are now faculty members, museum curators, and university leaders.

Professor Pinder is eager to draw on what she has learned at Yale and all her subsequent experiences to develop new educational opportunities for our students and to infuse the work of the School of Art across every part of our campus. She also looks forward to working with faculty and students to shape a vision for the future of art and design.  

In addition to being an eminent scholar and educator, Professor Pinder has extensive expertise leading academic, educational, and curatorial work at institutions of higher education and museums. Prior to being named the acting president of MassArt, she served as its provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Before joining MassArt, Professor Pinder was the dean of the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts—the state’s largest fine arts program, which offers more than thirty undergraduate and graduate degrees—for six years. She also served as interim director and curator of the University of New Mexico Art Museum, where her exhibition Necessary Force: Art in the Police State, curated with her Yale classmate Karen Fiss, garnered recognition for its bold and timely content. She came to the University of New Mexico from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she served as the chair of the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism and director of the graduate program.

Professor Pinder has approached each of her leadership roles with a focus on fostering innovative scholarship, teaching, and practice and with the view that institutions of higher education must work closely with their home cities. Over the years, she has collaborated with elected officials and business leaders to advocate for the importance of arts and culture to enhancing economic growth. She has founded events to showcase the work of student artists and curated exhibitions on urgent contemporary issues to provide forums for thoughtful student and community member dialogue. She also has supported the youth of her communities, such as helping to introduce arts curricula for public schools and inspiring young scholars to think about pursuing a college education.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the search advisory committee, chaired by Martin Kersels, professor and director of graduate studies in sculpture. They thoughtfully made recommendations to me based on the comments and suggestions they collected from the School of Art community and the university, more broadly. To those of you who provided input to the committee or wrote to me directly, thank you for making the time to contribute to the search process.

I also am deeply grateful to Dean Marta Kuzma for her immense contributions to the school and to Yale. She forged intellectual connections among students and faculty from diverse fields and encouraged individuals from all walks of life to engage with the arts. Professor Pinder will build on all that Dean Kuzma has achieved over the past five years and on the leadership of former Dean Robert Storr in the prior decade.

I invite you to join me in congratulating Professor Pinder and in welcoming her back to the Yale community!


Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology