Sethi oversaw reincarnation of Columbian College’s Corcoran School of Arts and Design and brought focus to advancing creative scholarship.
After nearly four years as the inaugural director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University, Sanjit Sethi will become the next president of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He will leave GW in July 2019 to begin his new role.
Information about interim leadership and a search for a successor is forthcoming.
“This promotion is well-earned and a tribute to Sanjit’s tireless dedication to not only preserve the legacy and identity of the Corcoran School but also position the school for future progress and success,” said GW President Thomas LeBlanc. “I am committed, as is GW, to the continued growth of the Corcoran School, both as a cultural treasure in Washington, D.C., and as a home to outstanding arts education strengthened by its connection to a world-class comprehensive research university.”
Sethi said he is “thrilled about this opportunity, but I will miss the Corcoran dearly.”
“We have reinvigorated our community with new faculty, staff, visiting professorships, programs and partnerships,” he said. “I am deeply grateful for this experience.”
Sethi led the reincarnation of the historic art school into one that has a home in a major research institution. Under his direction, GW’s programs in museum studies, theatre and dance, music, fine arts and art history and interior architecture were integrated under the Corcoran umbrella. He articulated a mission focused on cultural leadership and launched a new Master of Arts in Interaction Design and a Master of Fine Arts in Social Practice.
“Sanjit has done a remarkable job of reimagining the Corcoran School and how it can evolve to meet the needs of arts and design students now and in the future,” said GW Provost Forrest Maltzman. “He has brought together a wide-ranging arts and design faculty to ensure that the Corcoran School is a vibrant cultural hub that infuses creativity and social discourse throughout the university.”
During Sethi’s tenure, the Corcoran worked with indigenous communities and communities of color to ensure that their narratives are central to dialogues of cultural development and creativity at the school. These efforts have included collaborating on an exhibition entitled Decolonizing Alaska; hosting Joseph Kunkel, a Northern Cheyenne Tribal Member and architect; and co-curating an upcoming fall 2019 exhibition on the trauma of Afro-Caribbean immigration. In addition, the Corcoran created notable exhibitions that received wide acclaim and press attention, promoting broader social discourse, most notably in July 2018 with the opening of Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers, a March 2019 installation by the guerilla protest projectionist Robin Bell and the upcoming exhibition 6.13.89: The Cancelling of the Mapplethorpe Exhibition.
Since this academic year began, Corcoran has hosted over 150 events ranging from lectures, symposia, performances and exhibitions. It currently has over 500 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 21 degree programs and has revitalized programs such as the NEXT DesignLab, in which students create the branding for its biggest student exhibition of the year. The school’s continuing education program enrollment has also doubled since 2017, with classes to provide arts education in underserved communities underway. In 2019, the school saw increased applications in several degree areas, particularly in design disciplines such as exhibition and interaction design.
“As the Corcoran School’s founding director, Sanjit successfully elevated the arts at GW and opened up creative opportunities for interdisciplinary connections across Columbian College,” said Paul Wahlbeck, interim dean of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “We look forward to working with him and the entire Corcoran community during the coming months to ensure a smooth leadership transition.”
Sethi also provided leadership and critical insight over the successful completion of the school’s first phase of a renovation of the historic Flagg Building, bringing the building up to code, opening new pedagogical spaces at the Corcoran and giving commitment to the sites and structures that are vital to Corcoran’s memory and sense of place.
“The Corcoran’s mission of educating the next generation of cultural leaders resonates with the broader mission of GW and one we have seen put into action through the school’s values of creativity, innovation and empathy,” Sethi said. “I believe the Corcoran is poised for success in the years to come.”