Culture News

Meet Joanna Grabski, the New ASU School of Art Director

Joanna Grabski, who started her new role as director and professor for ASU's School of Art on July 1.
Joanna Grabski, who started her new role as director and professor for ASU's School of Art on July 1. Arizona State University
Joanna Grabski is the new director for Arizona State University's School of Art. Her official start date was July 1. Grabski will also serve as a professor at the School of Art, which is part of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The School of Art offers 13 undergraduate and five graduate degrees in fields that include studio art, art education, art history, and museum studies. Its fine art graduate programs are currently ranked at No. 20 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

The previous School of Art director, Adrien Jenik, left the position last fall to spend more time on her own art practice. Jenik will continue to teach a small number of art classes at ASU.

Grabski most recently served as chair of art history and visual culture at Denison University, a liberal arts college in Granville, Ohio. Her last day there was June 30.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be joining Arizona State University,” Grabski says. “I’m very in sync with its focus on integrating ASU with surrounding cities.”

Her own research involves the interface of art and urban centers in Africa. Her latest book, titled Art World City, will be published on Monday, July 10. It explores art, artists, and the creative economy in the city of Dakar, located in the West African nation of Senegal.

She also directed and produced a 53-minute film called Market Imaginary, which addressed networks and histories surrounding the commerce of second-hand goods in Dakar’s renowned Colobane market. Unsurprisingly, she’s quick to praise ASU’s embrace of sustainability issues.

“Sustainability is a critical issue in contemporary society,” Grabski says.

Grabski is particularly excited about working with Steven J. Tepper, who became dean of the Herberger Institute in 2014.

“He’s very thoughtful about the ways people and the arts mesh in Phoenix and Tempe,” Grabski says. “ASU is really a pacesetter in terms of what the arts can and should be, and how they contribute to placemaking.”

Trained as an art historian, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University.

Grabski joins the School of Art as several additional developments are taking place.

The School of Art is currently moving its graduate printmaking program to the Grant Street Studios space in the warehouse district, where it also operates Step Gallery and Northlight Gallery.

This fall, the School of Art will launch its first fashion program, headed by Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design for Phoenix Art Museum. And Liz Cohen will join the photography faculty.

“There’s something magical involved in me being here,” Grabski says of her new role. “This is so much my dream job.”
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble