Kent Kleinman, a distinguished architect, scholar and longtime higher education leader, has been appointed faculty director of the Brown Arts Institute, effective Friday, July 15.
As faculty director, Kleinman — who currently leads academic affairs as provost at Rhode Island School of Design — will work closely with faculty affiliated with the arts at Brown to develop new academic programs and guide the implementation of the BAI. The arts institute coordinates academic and artistic programming at Brown, together with seven affiliated departments: music, theatre arts and performance studies, modern culture and media, visual art, history of art and architecture, literary arts, and Africana studies and its Rites and Reason Theatre.
He will work closely with the BAI’s artistic director, Avery Willis Hoffman, to support community engagement, mentorship and professional development programs and to build upon the institute’s relationships with arts institutions and educational groups in Rhode Island and across the country. Kleinman will also serve as a professor of the practice in the Department of History of Art and Architecture.
Brown Provost Richard M. Locke said Kleinman’s arrival comes at a particularly exciting time for the arts at Brown, with a cutting-edge Performing Arts Center in the latter stages of construction on College Hill.
“Kent is a deeply accomplished architect, educator and arts administrator who will build on the early successes of the Brown Arts Institute to fuel continued growth and excitement in the arts at Brown,” Locke said. “As he works closely with Avery in this pivotal moment, his dynamic leadership will undoubtedly build upon Brown’s reputation as an increasingly important nexus of artistic talent, creativity and innovation.”
Locke noted that in joining Brown from Rhode Island School of Design — the University’s partner on the innovative Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program and the Master of Arts in Design Engineering, a graduate dual-degree program that fosters innovation at the intersection of design and engineering — Kleinman will come with a firsthand understanding of the arts landscape in Providence and how the strengths of the two world-class institutions can complement each other.
Before becoming RISD’s provost, Kleinman served as dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University from 2008 to 2018. He has also been a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, the State University of New York at Buffalo and at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Kleinman has taught at institutions globally, including the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, the Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin, the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and ETH Zürich.
Kleinman received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Since the 1990s, Kleinman has engaged in scholarly work focused mostly on 20th century European modernism. He has been the recipient of two grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, four grants from the Graham Foundation, a Rudy Bruner Award and two Architect’s Journal Top 10 Books of the Year awards. The organization Design Intelligence has twice named Kleinman among the Top 25 Most Admired Educators in the last decade.
Kleinman said that what captivated him about the BAI, and Brown as a whole, is its treatment of the arts as a fundamental mode of research.
“Text-based and symbolic-logic-based scholarship are crucial to unlocking new insights, but there’s another way of probing the human condition, and that is through the arts,” he said. “A performance, a choreographed dance, a musical score, a mark on a piece of paper — these can also be research entities asking fundamental questions about what it means to be human. We are grappling with huge questions related to the human condition — questions of social equity, of sustainability — and so it’s helpful to gather perspectives not only from scientists and humanists, but also from artists.”
Kleinman said the BAI’s structure also appealed to him. The institute unites individual academic arts departments under one umbrella, facilitating collaboration across disciplines and paving the way for unique courses, research projects and creative endeavors. He said he hopes to build upon Brown scholars’ natural tendency to collaborate, not only across disciplines, but also across campuses. Brown and RISD already work together closely on undergraduate and graduate dual-degree programs, and their community members regularly team up to form student organizations, curate exhibitions and launch creative projects.
“Having gotten to know RISD well these past few years, I can say with confidence that the two institutions share a creative spirit yet bring different strengths to the table,” Kleinman said. “Enhancing that existing relationship, allowing it to flourish, benefits everyone, including surrounding communities.”
Working closely with Hoffman to lead the Brown Arts Institute, Kleinman will report directly to Locke, engaging in fundraising and new faculty initiatives and hires, and all academic program development. He’ll play a central role in engaging in outreach to advance Brown’s strategic goal of becoming the university of choice for talented, diverse faculty and students seeking excellence in creative production, performance, scholarship and education across the arts.
Kleinman will succeed Thalia Field, who will complete her term as BAI faculty director this summer and return to her full-time role as a Brown professor of creative writing.