California College of the Arts in San Francisco was established in 1907 and offers more than 30 programs and disciplines across art, design, architecture and writing. | Photo Courtesy CCA

David C. Howse starts in the new role in December, joining the ranks of a few other African Americans leading U.S. art schools

THE 10TH PRESIDENT of the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco will be David C. Howse, 48. Bringing more than two decades of experience with arts organizations and educational institutions, Howse is joining CCA from Emerson College in Boston, Mass. Since 2015, he has served as vice president in Emerson’s Office of the Arts, executive director of ArtsEmerson, and special advisor to the president.

“We are thrilled to welcome David to lead CCA into its next chapter,” CCA Board of Trustees Chair Lorna Meyer Calas said in a statement. “Through his work at Emerson and in the city of Boston, David is a widely recognized figure in the arts and culture community, acknowledged for his dedication to nurturing and advancing arts and culture. He has demonstrated his strengths in collaborating with an array of campus stakeholders and managing complex projects, while also championing the strategic priorities of inclusion and belonging that are central to our vision, too.”

Howse assumes the role of president at CCA in December. With the appointment, he joins the ranks of a few other African Americans who took the helm of prominent art and design schools in the past several years, including Crystal Williams, president of the Rhode Island School of Design and Eric Pryor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia.

In addition, Kimberly Pinder was appointed dean of the Yale School of Art in 2021. Milton S.F. Curry was named dean of the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 2017. Dwight A. McBride, president since 2019 of The New School in New York, which includes Parsons School of Design, stepped down this summer. Meanwhile, Joyce F. Brown has been president of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for 25 years. Each is the first Black person to serve in the role.

“Through his work at Emerson and in the city of Boston, David is a widely recognized figure in the arts and culture community, acknowledged for his dedication to nurturing and advancing arts and culture.”
— CCA Board of Trustees Chair Lorna Meyer Calas


HOWSE’S BACKGROUND includes strategic planning and programming and extensive fundraising and community building experience. For the past eight years, he has held leadership positions at Emerson College.

In his role as vice president of Emerson’s Office of the Arts, he led fundraising campaigns that brought in more than $40 million to support existing programs and invest in new ones, according to the announcement. He also serves as interim vice president of institutional advancement. Howse leads ArtsEmerson, the school’s professional production and theater performance program and launched the Gaining Ground Fund in 2017, supporting the development, production, and touring of African American theater works with artists including Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter (1933-2023), and Claudia Rankine.

Earlier this year, in response to an RFP from the Boston mayor’s office, Howse helped develop Emerson unCommon Stage and the Trillium Garden on the Common providing public art and music programs in Boston Common. In a previous position, Howse was executive director of Boston Children’s Chorus (2009-2015).

In 2020, Howse co-founded the Boston Cultural Leaders Coalition, bringing together 35 nonprofit arts leaders with a focus on racial equity, coalition building, and change management. He sits on the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Boston Symphony Orchestra and also participates in the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums. Howse received a B.A. degree in music from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and holds a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He also earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard University and certificates from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice at Boston University and Emerging Leaders Program at University of Massachusetts, Boston.

FOUNDED IN 1907, CCA offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs across art, design, architecture, and writing. Notable alumni of CCA include artists Raymond Saunders, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Hank Willis Thomas.

The CCA Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Howse on Oct. 25. He succeeds outgoing president Stephen Beal, who said in February that he was retiring. A longstanding leader at CCA, Beal spent more than 25 years at the institution, beginning as provost in 1997 and becoming president in 2008. He has presided over major changes at CCA, preparing the art school to meet the needs of future generations.


Rendering of California College of the Arts $123 million campus expansion expected to be completed in fall 2024. | Courtesy of Studio Gang and Kilograph


Howse is joining CCA at a transformational time. CCA’s Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts is seeking a new leader. Meanwhile, a $123 million campus expansion is currently underway in collaboration with architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang. Focusing on sustainability, the state-of-the-art development is designed to unify more than 30 academic programs and disciplines and adds nearly 80,000 square feet of classrooms, student housing, public facilities, green spaces, a lecture hall, shops, studios, and maker yards, and new galleries for exhibitions. In anticipation of the new development, CCA closed its Oakland campus in May 2022. The building project is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

“Becoming the president of CCA is an incredible opportunity, because it brings together my interests in and professional dedication to the arts with my passion for teaching, innovating, and engaging the community,” Howse said in a statment.

“I am incredibly proud of and grateful for the successes during my tenure at Emerson College, during which I helped launch creative programs, and greatly expanded and deepened our audience experience, while ensuring that our work remained connected to Emerson’s educational mission. Boston is a wonderful city and it has been such a great pleasure to work with dedicated colleagues to make an impact on the city through the arts. At CCA, I look forward to bringing similar collaborative strategies to bear, supporting our growing San Francisco campus and innovative curriculum at this moment of transformation. It will be an honor to support and engage with faculty, staff, and students who are creating incredible and important work that not only impacts San Francisco, but the world.” CT


IMAGE: Above left, Incoming California College of the Arts President David C. Howse. | Photo by Nicole Loeb, Courtesy CCA


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