Change at the Art Academy

The 140-year-old institution looks forward with new initiatives

Aug 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The Art Academy of Cincinnati last week announced the departures of two top leaders, President Gregory Allgire Smith and Academic Dean Keith Kutch. While Kutch left on his own accord to accept a position at Stevenson University outside of Baltimore, the circumstances surrounding Smith’s departure are still unclear.

Ronald Bates, chairman of the Academy’s board of trustees, says he's not at liberty to discuss the details of Smith’s exit. Smith, who led the Academy for 14 years, was unavailable for comment.

West End gallery owner and Academy board member Carl Solway will head the committee to select new leadership. In the interim, Nancy Glier, the Academy’s former director of administrative services, will oversee its daily operations and Catherine Hardy will serve as acting academic dean.

The announcement of leadership changes was made in a release that focused on a comprehensive short- and long-term strategic plan. According to Bates, goals of the plan include increasing the Academy’s visibility with a new branding initiative, providing a superior experience for students and acknowledging the difficult financial environment by focusing on fundraising and cutting costs.

“We’ll be unveiling the branding initiative soon,” Bates says.

A team comprised of faculty, students and alumni — led by board member Howard McIlvain, a senior member of LPK — has been developing the new brand.

“They recognized that the Art Academy is a real bastion in Cincinnati, but many people aren’t aware of it,” Bates said.

Enrollment has also been a concern for the school, but has been on the rise recently.

“We have been increasing enrollment over the past few years,” Bates says. “There was a dip when we moved to Over-the-Rhine due to multiple factors, but mainly because we were so focused on the move. Our upcoming class is 66 students, which was our goal, and we’re excited about that figure.”

The Academy’s chair of fine arts, Kim Krause, has positive things to say about the strategic plan.

“It’s a very comprehensive and attainable plan,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more optimistic. The plan is 100 percent looking forward. The focus is all about the students.”

Of the branding initiative, Krause says, “I don’t think our story has gotten out there as much as it could have. We’re not changing much — we’re just trying to get the public to understand what we’ve always done. The Art Academy is different than a university.

“I think that going forward, you’re going to see the Academy become even more known for its uniqueness. We’ve always been unique, but our new branding initiative really tells our story.”

Krause is unable to provide details about Smith’s departure but applauds Kutch for his service to the Academy.

“Thanks in part to Keith Kutch, our program has never been stronger in terms of curriculum,” Krause says. “It’s a program that can only be done by a very small college and requires a team effort by the faculty, working together on behalf of the students, in very small groups. During our recent accreditation, we were given the highest scores possible for the curriculum he helped develop. He is very proud of what he’s contributed to the Academy. He left the faculty remarkably united, as diverse as we are.”

Krause emphasized that despite the leadership changes the school’s focus is on the future.

“The Art Academy isn’t all business,” he says. “We are a community, and we pride ourselves in our sense of community and sense of family, so when changes happen it’s sometimes difficult. We’re all kind of going through that, some more than others, but the overwhelming feeling in the building is focused on the incoming students.”