Rhode Island School of Design Appoints Two New Deans

June 30, 2014

Rhode Island School of Design has appointed Sheri Wills to the position of Dean of Fine Arts, effective in August, and has promoted Daniel Cavicchi from acting Dean of Liberal Arts to a permanent position as of July 1.

An artist whose work is based in film, video performance and digital media, 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, Wills 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.

At RISD, Wills will lead 10 Fine Arts departments: Ceramics, Film/Animation/Video, Glass, Illustration, Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Textiles. She will work 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 interim dean in 2013. He has also earned RISD’s John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching and Brown University’s President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. An author, scholar and cultural historian, Cavicchi is invited to speak throughout the country and writes a blog about 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.

As acting dean, Cavicchi has already 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.”