Tyler dean balances work, artistry

As an artist, art educator, curator and critic, Keith Morrison has done it all. Now he can add dean of Tyler School of Art to his list of accomplishments. In July, the University officially named

As an artist, art educator, curator and critic, Keith Morrison has done it all. Now he can add dean of Tyler School of Art to his list of accomplishments.

In July, the University officially named Morrison as the new dean of the Tyler School of Art.

Born in Jamaica, Morrison’s path into the art world began at the School of Art Institute of Chicago where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Art seemed like a natural career to pursue, Morrison said, because he has been interested in it since a young age.

“I enjoy being around artists, students and the excitement of helping them create new things,” Morrison said through e-mail.

After grad school, Morrison started his professional career, showcasing his artwork both privately and publicly in places such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Early in his career, Morrison decided that he would like to be not only an artist but also an administrator.

His interest with administration initially began at DePaul University in Chicago, where he served as the chair of the art department.

“[It’s a way for me to] affect cultural change through education of artists and their public,” Morrison said of art administration. “Like so many things in life, you do it first then discover you like it after.”

After DePaul, Morrison served as associate dean at the College of Architecture and Art in Chicago and was most recently dean of the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. It was there that he heard of the opening at Tyler.

“I discovered that I like doing administration,” Morrison said.

The combination of admiration for Tyler’s program and wanting to relocate to the East Coast sealed the deal.

“I enjoyed San Francisco State, [and] did many exciting things there, but I wanted to be involved with a great school that was about the visual arts alone,” Morrison stated. “Tyler is such a school. It’s one of the best of its kind anywhere.”

Even though he works as the dean full time, Morrison continues his professional career. Being a dean, he said, requires a lot of the same character traits that artists possess.

“It takes discipline and organization to be an artist and a dean at the same time. I think I have both,” Morrison said. “However, these are pretty much the qualities that most artists need to be effective in their chosen field, whether they are deans, teachers, designers, architects, photographers or painters.”

Morrison has had numerous gallery shows, including an upcoming one in New York City.

“My show in New York will include 16 large detailed watercolors, which are fantasies I have created. Some are about romance, other about nature, and other still about death and destruction,” Morrison said. “Many have to do with the Middle East.”

Morrison said he sees Tyler’s move to Main Campus as a chance to integrate Tyler’s main campus elements with the programs currently offered in Elkins Park. A home in the city, Morrison said, will offer further opportunities to engage the urban community, as well as create arts programs in relation to other aspects of education.

“I hope to bring a wider interdisciplinary opportunity to Tyler, including relationships with other schools and programs,” Morrison said. “I hope to encourage Tyler to expand the base of art to include a wider variety of world’s cultures.”

In order to create variety, Morrison wants Tyler to interact more with the schools at Temple such as music, communication, liberal arts, engineering, computer science and business.

According to Morrison all of these schools are areas in which artists work in today.

To put his ideas in motion, Morrison is planning on recruiting a culturally diverse faculty and expanding Tyler’s curriculum to focus on a wider range of cultural perspectives.

Once the move to Main Campus is complete, Tyler will have better access to other schools at the university. This move will not only allow Tyler to interact with the other schools at Temple but also other art schools and organizations within Philadelphia.

“I hope to help Tyler maintain its ranking as one of the premier art schools in the U.S., and to improve [it] if possible,” Morrison said.

Erin Schlesing can be reached at tua04756@temple.edu.

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