Over the past year, SFAI has been undergoing an extensive search for a new President after the departure of our last, Charles Desmarais. At the start of the Fall 2016 semester, it was announced that three prospective candidates would be visiting at the beginning of September and would be holding public presentations to introduce themselves to the SFAI community and answer the question "What do you think the role of SFAI should be in the future, and what personal and professional experiences will you draw on to bring that role to life?"
SFAEYE is covering these candidates' presentations as they happen and will be releasing complete recordings of their talks, along with a written recap and at-a-glance summaries of each candidates' qualifications.
Meet Fred Fehlau, the first of three presidential candidates to visit SFAI.
Fred Fehlau At-a-Glance
BFA Fine Art, 1979, Art Center College of Design
MFA Fine Art, 1988, Art Center College of Design
1986: Full Time Faculty Member, Art Center College of Design
2000: Interim Chair of Graphic Design, Art Center College of Design
2001: Chair of Foundation Studies, Art Center College of Design
2005: Full Professor, Art Center College of Design
2007: Dean of Academic Affairs, Art Center College of Design
2010 - Present: Provost/Chief Academic Officer, Art Center College of Design
2014 - Present: Chair, NASAD Committee on Accreditation
Fehlau’s complete resume can be viewed at his Linkedin
Here is the full audio of Fred Fehlau's presentation in the SFAI Lecture Hall on September 6, 2016. A recap can be found below.
Fred Fehlau was the first SFAI Presidential candidate to visit and present on campus. He began by introducing himself, sharing personal images, art he created or admires, and talking about his personal and professional experiences. He discussed his education, choice to go to art school, and his early career as an artist - which included working as a brand packaging designer in Europe and showing his art at Burnett Miller Gallery in LA.
Fehlau then expanded on the 40 years he has spent in various positions working at Art Center and went into detail about the experience he’s gained in Academic Affairs. His major accomplishments at Art Center included: forming a community-driven strategic plan, introducing multiple new undergraduate and graduate programs, diversity initiatives, meeting fundraising goals, enrollment growth, and managing 27 Direct Reports.
When answering the question “What do you think the role of SFAI should be in the future?”, Fehlau said “As one of the very few remaining schools in the nation focusing exclusively on fine art practices, I believe SFAI needs to be uncompromising in its commitment to deliberate critical inquiry and to pass that commitment on to its students, no matter where that inquiry might lead them….I believe an arts institution must own its practices and disciplines, but NOT own its students”.
Following this, the next question Fehlau answered was “What will bring that role to life?”. He discussed his desire to engage the creative and philanthropic community of San Francisco in conversation about the value of fine arts - and fine arts education - within an increasingly outcomes-based and design-driven cultural economy. He also intends to build a case of support for SFAI as an asset to the city of San Francisco with a deep history and significant relevance that requires the commitment of stakeholders to ensure the future of the institution and the preservation of its physical features and facilities.
Fehlau then got to his pitch: He explained his commitment to shared governance and strategic planning and proposed the opportunity to create an updated strategic plan next year. “This plan would re-engage the community (internal and external) with a capital campaign and take what is is a really good business plan and make it into something something that students, faculty, staff, chairs, trustees, and the creative community can own. This is about moving away from what you want [towards] how you get there...and is about engaging everyone in the community in the process...It has to be mission driven and it has to be truthful”. He described how a capital campaign has to be framed to get the creative community’s support
Fehlau shared his thoughts on the goals he discussed.
1. “Effective strategic planning is only possible with full community involvement and effective board participation and an honest understanding of resources and needs in regards to educational goals”.
2. “Proper shared governance is only possible when all constituents work towards educational excellence, a safe and inclusive environment, and an acknowledgment that all contributions are valued and fully supported.”
3. “A truly successful fundraising strategy is possible when institutional values and educational mission are fully aligned and communicated with a clear and compelling message.”
Fehlau shared his nickname (“Chart Boy”) along with a very detailed chart that showed 5 hard questions, long term goals, threats, and opportunities for SFAI.
Fehlau read from his letter of intent: “I am honored to be able to present myself as a candidate for position as president for SFAI. I have long admired SFAI for its deep history and commitment to studio arts. I also appreciate the importance and complexity of this position within the SFAI community and in the fine art community itself, the challenges SFAI has faced in the past as well as the challenges all art schools face [in the present]...”
Fehlau ended his presentation with, “students come first”.
Questions and Answers:
At the close of the presentation, audience members are invited to ask questions to the candidate. Here are the questions and answers transcribed.
You talked about the community as being the SFAI community. What about the institution's relationship to the city?
“Any institution has to be a good citizen and that the community of the institution has to evolve with the city that it’s in...to provide that open space [for opportunity and dialogue]”
What would you do in the first 100 days, since this isn’t your community?
“I need to listen and to meet people and to find out where people share values or desires and how those things are connected...and where they don’t share values or desires and what’s behind that difficulty and different points of view and if there’s a way to bring that together. There’s also a lot of opportunity to...have parties and people will come...to talk [to the new guy]. You can use that as an opportunity to call people together and to share ideas and then to let that develop into some kind of plan ”
What would you say the difference is between being a provost and a president? How do you see the role really shifting for you?
"Well, [the president] doesn’t have 27 direct reports. In many ways it’s about boots on the ground. You really need to know all that’s going on, you need to make sure students have rooms and equipment and schedules are properly done...a lot of things that, if you have a good provost, the president doesn’t need to do. The president needs to know that that’s getting done and needs to know what they’re looking at when they walk into it. This is why some presidents don’t succeed is because they don’t understand education. But, it’s really an internal-external function. I would think the best president is the one who can actually articulate what the community, the institution thinks or has or needs or wants to talk about and to sort of the vehicle instead of spokesperson. There’s a way i think that the president has access to opportunities ot disclose or describe what somebody might not be able to know about, where its really the provost’s job to make sure it runs."
How do you feel about letting go of that?
“I’ve seen...I’m a really good provost. I make sure we do everything in as an efficient and appropriate way as possible. It’s all about the students, it’s not about cutting...but I have so clearly seen how you can’t do that without good leadership and that if you have a president that’s running the opposite direction, how damaging that can be....This is the next step, but it would also be a fit for me. I don’t think i could be a president at a design school because that’s not whats at the core of my heart. I can make something run, but speaking it..you have to speak the truth”
You’ve obviously been very committed to Art Center, you’ve spent 40 years getting to know that community. So what’s your desire to move here to a drastically different program, a drastically different community, with such a vast history and how do you intend to bring that same commitment here?
“I think why I’ve succeeded at Art Center is... I’m of that school but I’m not of that school. I’ve always been [tweaking] what that school needs. At one point the previous Provost wanted to get rid of the fine art department and I said “No, there’s no way you’re going to get rid of this department unless you fire me.” because it’s what keeps everyone else from thinking that they’re right. And they may be right, but you can’t think you’re right and be right without questioning that. And that’s what I’ve always done. And when I think about how is it that these two things are different, and where do I fit there, I sort of fit in between. I’ve provided that sort of resistance at Art Center and I think I’ve been productive in that. But I also think that I’m not able to represent that...I don’t think that answered your question"