ArtCenter College’s President To Retire

Photo courtesy ArtCenter
Lorne Buchman, president of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, announced that he will retire next year.

ArtCenter College of Design President Lorne M. Buchman announced his plans to retire on June 30, 2022, in a letter he has sent to the college community.
“My time at the college has represented, without question, the peak of my professional life, and I will be forever grateful to this remarkable community for the opportunity to serve as its president,” Buchman said. “It has been most energizing to witness how this college has evolved over the years… I am inspired by our transformation and quite dazzled by how far we have come in our commitment to create excellence in art and design education.”
While retiring from higher education, Buchman hinted at other projects he’d like to pursue, including writing another book — he recently completed “Make to Know: From Spaces of Uncertainty to Creative Discovery” (Thames & Hudson, August 2021) — and producing a documentary about the creative process, in addition to other innovative pursuits.
Among Buchman’s goals for the next 15 months are to ensure a safe return to campus for students, faculty and staff; to engage the community in forward-looking plans for a post-pandemic ArtCenter; and to establish a two-year strategic agenda for the college — all to ensure that his successor will have a strong foundation to steward the college into the future.
ArtCenter has evolved significantly during Buchman’s tenure, with sustained and noteworthy enhancements across all aspects of college life, including community building, resource development, program growth and campus expansion.
When Buchman took office in 2009, he engaged all members of the ArtCenter community in a conversation about art and design education in the 21st century. With input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, donors and external partners, Buchman issued Create Change, a five-year strategic plan (2011-16) based on the college’s conservatory-like approach to teaching and learning; a desire for rich, intercultural and transdisciplinary dialogue; and a mandate to provide students innovative learning and making spaces. Updates to the strategic plan, Create Change 2.0 (2017-21), were driven by the question of educational value with a more specific focus on student success; diversity, equity and inclusion; curricular innovation and strategic infrastructure.
A cornerstone of Buchman’s community-building efforts and strategic plan development was his continued emphasis on shared governance.
“It’s still a work-in-progress,” he readily admits, “but shared governance at ArtCenter has been critical to the progress we have made. It has helped us enormously to draw on the wisdom of this community.”
As it evolved, shared governance formalized ways in which constituents across the college could inform and participate in decisions about key initiatives of the institution, including new program growth, educational and student services, acquisition of and improvements to campus facilities; and the development of technological resources.
Buchman has also been a strong advocate for the value of art and design in the larger cultural context. He currently hosts “Change Lab: Conversations on Transformation and Creativity,” a podcast produced by ArtCenter in which Buchman conducts intimate interviews with leading artists and innovators. This past fall, the podcast focused on elevating Black voices and, currently in its eighth season, “Change Lab” is now exploring how educational leaders take on rapidly shifting instructional models, investigate radical curricular change and propose bold new ways to learn.
His advocacy for art and design is also evident in his current role as chair of the board of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), a consortium of nearly 40 similarly focused colleges across North America that collectively support and strengthen art and design education in a global context.
Buchman’s passion and deep commitment to excellence in education and his care for individuals in the community have generated an enthusiastic response from alumni, foundations, and a growing donor community with unprecedented financial support. Under Buchman’s leadership, ArtCenter surpassed its ambitious $100 million fundraising campaign goal with a total of $124 million raised — the largest fundraising total in the college’s history.
Coinciding with an increase in philanthropic support, Buchman has also recruited a diverse group of distinguished leaders to the board of trustees. Since Buchman’s arrival, board giving has totaled nearly $69.5 million, with significant gifts made in support of scholarships, student services, endowment and capital projects.
Thanks to the careful budgeting practices Buchman brought to ArtCenter, the trustees were able to build, beyond its main endowment, a board-designated “quasi-endowment” which has allowed the college to address specific areas of need, including scholarships to increase the diversity of the student body and to help upper-term students persist to graduation. In the last year, Buchman worked with the trustees to extend the use of the quasi-endowment to provide $9 million in tuition reduction grants to students facing the difficult financial challenges of the pandemic.
Through Buchman’s commitment to access and affordability and the robust support that followed, the college’s financial aid capacity has also grown considerably, with a 35% increase in annual donor scholarships, 115% increase in economic diversity grants, and a 12% increase in general scholarship awards. Overall, the college has seen an increase of $12.5 million in institutional scholarships from $6.5 million in 2009 when he arrived to approximately $19 million in 2021.
Notably, Buchman also raised $2 million in endowment for a presidential discretionary fund, which he has used annually to assist students who are experiencing severe economic hardship, especially with respect to food and housing insecurity.
In sum, and as a recent Moody’s investment-grade rating confirms, the college is in a strong financial position.
As a result of this intentional program growth, ArtCenter has realized record enrollments. The college now boasts an enrollment of nearly 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students — a significant increase of 32% from 1,500 students when Buchman arrived in the fall of 2009.
To support ArtCenter’s growth, Buchman has expanded the number of services offered to students and the larger ArtCenter community, with a new or increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion; counseling and wellness; academic advising; career and professional development; exhibitions, funds for emergency economic response; institutional research; and environmental health and safety.
Growth at South Campus was made possible by the acquisition and adaptive reuse of buildings adjacent to the original wind tunnel property, including a former U.S. postal distribution facility and an office building previously occupied by Jacobs Engineering; effectively adding nearly 167,000 square feet of space across five urban acres to the college’s real estate portfolio. Buchman led the effort of a substantial remodel of both buildings and, today, South Campus encompasses a variety of classroom studios, workshops, exhibition spaces and administrative services. Expansion of South Campus has also provided room to expand and enhance resources at the college’s landmark Hillside Campus with re-imagined classroom spaces, state-of-the-art auditoriums and improvements to the overall infrastructure.
In 2018, the city of Pasadena approved a comprehensive master plan for ArtCenter that charts a 15-year vision for the college’s physical campuses. The plan incorporates long-term plans for enhanced facilities and establishes a framework to guide development across both ArtCenter campuses and ensure that future changes remain in service to an engaged community.
Following Buchman’s retirement announcement, Su Mathews Hale, chair of ArtCenter’s board of trustees, said, “The board is indebted to Lorne for his superb and compassionate leadership. His diligent work has always been in service to our students, ensuring they receive the best possible art and design education and learn skills that will benefit them and influence the world around them long into the future.
“The college has changed immeasurably over the years, and the board commends Lorne for his countless successes as president,” Mathews Hale continued. “While we’re sad to learn about his departure, we’re grateful for all he has done for the school and know that he’ll continue to produce meaningful and creative work. We wish him the best in his future adventures.”
Chair emeritus Robert C. Davidson Jr., who presided as chair during much of Buchman’s tenure, added, “Lorne has been the best president that ArtCenter or any other college could have. We have benefitted immensely from Lorne’s leadership, his admiration for the ArtCenter community and his deep affinity for the creative process. It has been my pleasure to work alongside him and he will be greatly missed.”
Mathews Hale and the board of trustees have already begun planning the search for a successor. Input from all constituencies within the community — including students, faculty, staff and alumni — will be a critical part of the process.