June 22, 2008

Contract of High-Profile Art Center President Won’t Be Renewed

By Janette Williams

PASADENA -- Richard Koshalek, the high-profile, hard-driving president of Art Center College of Design since 1999, will not have his contract renewed when it expires in 18 months.

John Puerner, chairman of the college's 16-member Board of Trustees, speaking from his home in Santa Fe on Saturday, said the college was in the process of "crafting a communication to deliver to the Art Center community" in the next few days.

"We will provide communication ... using a new forum created by Art Center, a new on-line forum created to speak to students and faculty," Puerner said while declining to comment until Art Center staff and students are informed of the board's action.

Puerner later said he was not confirming Koshalek's contract would not be renewed.

Koshalek was out of town and could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Iris Gelt, Art Center's vice president of marketing, said Saturday she had not been told of any board decision and college officials would have no comment.

Criticism of Koshalek, formerly the 20-year director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, has intensified in recent months.

Months of buzz on the Internet, with students and alumni weighing in on the college's $150 million expansion plans, had a consistent theme: students' education and college standards have suffered because the focus has been on expansions of the South Raymond Avenue and Linda Vista campuses.

An "Education First" student/alumni petition with more than 700 digital signatures was scheduled to go to the board before Wednesday's meeting.

It asked the administration to restore priority to the 1,200 students' education and drop the expansion plans, including the $50 million Design Research Center designed by Frank Gehry.

Another petition supporting the plans was started about two weeks ago.

The on-line debate also cited concern over the sudden departures of several high-level faculty within the last two years, including Nate Young, the popular chief academic officer who resigned after five years.

Some also complained that major events on campus, such as the recent "Serious Play" conference, were costly exercises in self- promotion with little value for students.

Koshalek defended his vision for the college in front of about 200 students and faculty at a two-hour campus forum on June 10.

He later said the expansion was not ego-driven, but vital to the college's and students' future place in the global economy.

Some of the on-line criticism has been "very painful," Koshalek said after the June forum. But, he added, Art Center must change and become more sophisticated to maintain its status as "not just a trade school."

"The marketplace is unforgiving," he said. "We must innovate to be a leader."

A third of the college's $150 million capital campaign fund -- which now has raised close to $80 million -- is set aside for scholarships, a third for the college endowment and a third for the campus development, officials said.

No student tuition -- up to $117,376 for an undergraduate degree - - goes to the fund.

Art Center's much-revised 25-year master plan for its hilltop campus at 1700 Lida Street -- which would keep 145 acres as open space -- has begun through the city planning process.

And in a complex agreement with the city in February, the college agreed to lease the historic Glenarm Power Plant for $1 a year, with plans to transform it into a graduate research campus at the city's southern gateway.

Several years ago, the college converted a nearby wind tunnel for its south campus.

[email protected]

(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4482

(c) 2008 Pasadena Star-News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.