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RISD Appoints Two New Deans

07/02/2014

Sheri Wills and Dan Cavicchi provide new leadership in the divisions of Fine Arts and Liberal Arts, respectively.

Rhode Island School of Design has appointed film, video and digital media artist Sheri Wills to the position of dean of Fine Arts, effective on August 25, and has promoted cultural historian, author and scholar Daniel Cavicchi from acting dean of Liberal Arts to a permanent position as of July 1. 

Wills comes to RISD from the University of Rhode Island, where she is a professor of Art and Art History and director of the interdisciplinary Film/Media program at URI’s Harrington School of Communications & Media. Previously an American Council on Education fellow in the President’s Office at Cooper Union, she led the Periodic Review Report for Middle States accreditation during a period of dramatic change at Cooper. She earned an MFA in Film, Video and New Media and an MA in Modern Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“While I work with contemporary technologies, I see my work in the tradition of women’s lap craft,” Wills says in her artist’s statement. “I am drawn to that which is intimate, everyday and personal.” Her work has been exhibited at MoMA in New York, the London Film Festival and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, among other venues. For video projects she has collaborated with composers and musicians such as Ofer Ben-Amots, Jan Jirásek, Charles Norman Mason and Bright Sheng, and has presented videos to live music by Ensemble QAT, Luna Nova Music (a new music ensemble in Memphis, TN) and the Providence String Quartet.

As dean of Fine Arts, Wills will lead 10 departments: Ceramics, Film/Animation/Video, Glass, Illustration, Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Textiles as she works with academic leaders to shape a compelling vision for the future of fine arts education in a global context.

Cavicchi has taught at RISD since 1996, becoming an assistant professor in 2001, an associate professor in 2007, a department head in 2011 and a full professor and acting dean in 2013. Through his research and teaching, Cavicchi specializes in the role of the arts in the everyday lives of Americans since the early 19th century and is often invited to speak about the cultural role of music and the phenomenon of fandom. His books include Listening and Longing: Music Lovers in the Age of Barnum (2011), Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans (1998) and My Music: Explorations of Music in Daily Life (1993), with Charles Keil and Susan D. Crafts. During his tenure he has taught at Wheaton, Brown and RISD, earning the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching at RISD and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at Brown, where he earned an MA and PhD in American Civilization.

Over the past 18 months as acting dean, Cavicchi has established a platform for the evolving role of liberal arts at RISD. He will continue to work closely with academic leaders on campus to further RISD’s reputation both locally and globally and to forge a path for the three Liberal Arts departments he oversees: History of Art + Visual Culture; History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences and Literary Arts + Studies.

“I know that this will continue to be a time of change at RISD and that providing consistency as we move forward is important,” says interim Provost Pradeep Sharma of Cavicchi’s appointment. “I also believe that stability does not mean stasis.” He adds that Wills “brings a keen interest in the fine arts and the role they play in the world. She has extensive knowledge of teaching models from top art schools around the world and will be a great participant in developing teaching and learning at RISD.”

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tags: Fine Arts, faculty, History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences, Liberal Arts

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In a studio called Design Science students explore geometric patterns and relationships, in part by constructing models.