Press Releases

CalArts Elects Charmaine Jefferson Chair of the Board of Trustees

The New Chair Will Further Initiatives Aimed at Increasing Access to the College’s Renowned Arts Education

Valencia, CA (May 16, 2022) — Today, the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) announced that Charmaine Jefferson has been elected Chair of the Board of Trustees. She assumed the role on May 3, 2022, as colleges and universities across the country are challenged to deepen their educational offerings, maintain relevance, broaden the concepts of diversity, and increase financial access. Jefferson steps into the Chair position poised to lead the Board in tackling these hurdles while embracing CalArts’ vision to be an ever-evolving, expansive, and responsive institution that offers a welcoming artistic community with significant global impact.

Jefferson, a member of the CalArts Board of Trustees since 2006, succeeds Tim Disney, who led the Board since 2014. During Disney’s tenure as Board Chair, CalArts welcomed a new president, weathered the uncertainty of the pandemic, and formalized goals for its diversity, equity, inclusion, and access initiatives, all while bolstering its commitment to artistic experimentation and bringing the best and widest range of talents to the campus.

“We are profoundly grateful to Tim for his years of service and steadfast leadership as Board Chair. He has set CalArts on a path towards greater growth and inclusivity, and the transition to Charmaine’s leadership is the perfect example of this path forward,” said CalArts President Ravi S. Rajan. “Charmaine is a brilliant, capable leader with abundant expertise in non-profit administration and fundraising. Not only has she served as a CalArts Trustee for the last 16 years, she is a vital member of the LA and national arts community. As Chair, she will bring a tested operational understanding to the Board’s oversight of the Institute, and a rallying spirit that continues to champion CalArts’ experimental, generative model of arts education to our constituents and donors alike.”

Jefferson is committed to activating the intersections of art, culture, history and community. A lifelong advocate for the arts and arts education, she operates her own strategic consulting firm, Kélan Resources. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Fender Play Foundation and as a Los Angeles City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner.

During her 11 years as the Executive Director of the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, she ushered in a nearly threefold increase in Museum attendance to more than 100,000 visitors per year through expanded exhibitions and programs, reignited the Museum’s non-profit foundation, and increased community engagement while building relationships with public officials and donors alike. As Executive Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem school and international touring company, Jefferson oversaw the $60M capital expansion and renovation of its headquarters and studios. From her experience as an executive of Show Development for Disney Entertainment Productions and Board Treasurer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts, she has a deep understanding of the value of the arts to society and the economy, and how essential it is to deliver a supportive environment in which artists can grow and flourish. From her early nine-year career as a trained professional concert dancer, Jefferson also brings to CalArts a personal connection to artistic practice. CalArts a personal connection to artistic practice.

“I am joyful to be a CalArts Trustee, and it is an honor to continue this work now as Board Chair,” said Jefferson. “CalArts is a place where creative excellence and critical thinking come together to cultivate an artistic community unlike any other in the world. CalArts graduates are everywhere producing award-winning films, redefining animation, starring in plays, leaping across stages, filling ears with music and song, designing sets and costumes, and exhibiting their artwork in major museums. All of this and so much more is a testament to the school’s outsized cultural impact. In partnership with my fellow Trustees and an enormously talented president, faculty, and staff, I look forward to being in further service to the Institute as we work together to develop more artistic opportunities for our students, increase scholarship access for prospective students, lift up our great alumni, and enhance the very facilities in which all of this amazing CalArts magic takes place.”

As CalArts moves into its second half-century, Jefferson will work with President Rajan and long-standing Board Trustee Vice-Chair Jim Lovelace to continue building a legacy that intuitively tackles barriers as they arise and is forever seeking to expand the impact of CalArts’ educational mission of nurturing talented artists from the widest range of cultural, aesthetic, and socio-economic backgrounds possible.

About CalArts

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.

This fall, CalArts will welcome its inaugural cohort of Arts Posse Scholars as part of a pilot program in partnership with the Posse Foundation designed to foster a diverse pipeline of leaders in the creative arts. Additionally, a new partnership with the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) will foster educational collaboration between the two schools through student and faculty exchange, curriculum development, and resource sharing.