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Charles Gaines, 2019 Photo: Mario de Lopez
28 Aug 2020

CalArts Launches the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair

Eileen Harris Norton is honoring CalArts faculty member and celebrated artist Charles Gaines with a $5 million gift that will create the ‘Charles Gaines Faculty Chair.’ The gift will also facilitate the further development of Black and other underrepresented faculty members in the School of Art through its support of research, creative activities, and curriculum innovation.

‘Eileen’s selfless generosity will help generations of students at CalArts and provide a springboard for the much-needed and long-overdue development of underrepresented faculty. Her critical investment will be felt across the Institute — and the art world — for a very long time.’— Charles Gaines

Norton’s gift comes at a pivotal moment as arts organizations in the United States, and the world, grapples with a historic lack of representation of non-white artists. CalArts is striving to both acknowledge that its own white supremacist structures create this problem, and work towards changing these structures. Norton’s generosity pays tribute to Charles while helping CalArts to change itself, enabling the Institute to head toward its aspirational values of creating a more representational and diverse community of artists in the world.

‘Both institutions of higher education and of the arts are regularly costumed as bastions of progressive thought and spaces of equity and inclusion’ said CalArts President Ravi Rajan. ‘Actual practices indicate otherwise. Eileen Harris Norton knows this, and her gift helps CalArts create structures that counter this behavior. Her confidence that we can transform into an institution that practices our aspirational values while honoring a faculty artist who has consistently led this critique in his career, is inspirational.’

Gaines has forged a remarkable career of more than five decades — spanning from the early conceptualist work of the 1960s, to his boundary-pushing efforts today. As an artist and educator, Gaines has influenced generations of new artists. He works across an eclectic range of mediums, and his installations often investigate how rule-based procedures construct order and meaning, exploring the interplay between objectivity and interpretation, the systematic and the poetic, and the linguistic and the political. During a speech at the 2018 CalArts REDCAT Gala, where Gaines was honored, he outlined the driving force behind his interest as an educator and artist.

‘I was always interested in critical thinking within the framework of art practice,’ Gaines said. ‘Which led me to an obsession with analytical thinking and philosophical propositions about reality, which in turn lead me to an interest in the ethical problems of culture. I understood that these interests were always a part of art, to a greater or lesser degree.’

Gaines will hold the faculty endowed position and future appointments in the position will be known as the ‘Charles Gaines Faculty Chair.’ Preference for the appointment will be given to faculty members from underrepresented groups, including those who self-identify as Black.

‘I am so honored that Eileen Harris Norton has made such a remarkable and transformative gift to benefit the School of Art,’ Gaines said. ‘Her selfless generosity will help generations of students at CalArts and provide a springboard for the much-needed and long-overdue development of underrepresented faculty. Her critical investment will be felt across the Institute — and the art world — for a very long time.’

Eileen Harris Norton is the co-founder, with Allan DiCastro and CalArts alumnus, Mark Bradford (Art BFA 95, MFA 97), of Art + Practice, a foundation that supports the needs of foster youth transitioning into adulthood as well as providing free access to museum-curated contemporary art celebrating artists of color.

‘Charles is an amazing artist and has been an important teacher for a generation of younger artists,’ Norton said. ‘He deserves much recognition for his talent and for what he has given to his students and the larger world. He has been an under recognized presence and I want his influence to be known and brought to a wider audience.’

 

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