Press Releases

CalArts Selects Ravi Rajan as the 4th President of the Institution

CalArts Selects Ravi Rajan as the 4th President of the Institution

Rajan Follows 29 Year Tenure of CalArts President Steven Lavine

Los Angeles, CA—Ravi S. Rajan, the Dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase College, State University of New York, has been selected as the fourth President of the California Institute of the Arts, the school’s Board of Trustees announced Tuesday.

Rajan will begin his tenure June 1, 2017, and his selection was officially announced to the CalArts community late Tuesday following a unanimous board vote.

“CalArts is a beacon in the higher ed and arts community that has left an indelible mark on the artists who are forging the future monuments of culture and society,” said Rajan. “I’ve known and experienced the amazing work of CalArts’s faculty and alumni for decades, and have marveled at the innovation and transformation that has occurred under President Lavine’s leadership. I’m humbled by this opportunity, excited to be a part of this great community, and look forward to building upon the innovative pedigree of CalArts.”

Tim Disney, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said that Rajan has proven himself to be an innovative and thoughtful leader whose passion and vision for arts education aligns with the CalArts community.

“Ravi showed the fiery passion for the arts that was at the core of CalArts’ founding,” said Disney. “His commitment to excellence and exploration and innovation will help continue CalArts’ rich legacy and unbounded future.”

As Dean of the School of Arts at Purchase College since 2012, Rajan has charted an inventive, collective and ambitious educational path that mirrors the historical sensibilities of CalArts. His distinguished background in both the arts and higher education make him a uniquely qualified leader, allowing him to tackle challenges and pursue innovative ideas, while always preserving qualities that are essential to the institution’s artistic identity.

Rajan started a 3-phase $100 million capital renovation of the art and design facilities at Purchase College, the first such renovation in the program’s history. His boundless advocacy helped strengthen a culture of philanthropy, resulting in the College securing the largest individual donations since its founding. In an effort to grow positive change within the arts and culture globally, Rajan spearheaded the creation of a new MA in Entrepreneurship in the Arts, the first graduate degree of its kind in the world.

Rajan has extensive experience in the production of art, music, theatre/dance, and film/video, as well as in senior executive roles in higher education. He became an Assistant Dean of Art+Design at Purchase College in 2005, eventually rising to his current position of Dean of the School of Arts in 2012. He is a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, and is President of the Asian American Arts Alliance.

Rajan is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Yale University. He is an accomplished musician, performing with and conducting for many large and small musical groups as well as for the theatre. His practice also encompasses producing collaborative mixed-media projects with artists, filmmakers, directors, and choreographers for museums, galleries, foundations, biennials, festivals, and venues public and private.

“Ravi brings the perfect combination of personal artistic commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, which is vital to CalArts, along with broad experience as an educator, and significant accomplishments as a senior administrator at Purchase College,” said CalArts’ President Steven Lavine. “I am thrilled he will be the person to lead CalArts into its future development as one of the great artistic and educational institutions in the world.”

The Board of Trustees, advised by a committee encompassing the entire CalArts community, appointed Rajan at the conclusion of an extensive international search, which evaluated over 500 applicants and began after Lavine announced he would be retiring in June 2015.

“To say that Steven Lavine has cast a long shadow at CalArts would be an understatement,” continued Disney. “Under Steven’s leadership, CalArts has become the heartbeat of the creative economy and has ensured that the institution is the epicenter for evolving the ways in which we all interact and experience art and culture in our lives.”

Rajan will follow the 29-year tenure of President Lavine. Under Lavine’s leadership, CalArts transformed into a world-class arts institution that consistently defines and shapes culture in our society. Beginning his tenure in 1988 after leaving the Rockefeller Foundation, Lavine was instrumental in stabilizing the school’s financial footing and growing its endowment. In 1990, he established the Community Arts Partnership (CAP), which continues to bring arts education to thousands of underserved students throughout Los Angeles. He helped launch internationally renowned academic and instructional programs in dance, integrated media, masters programs in writing, and doctoral programs in the musical arts.

In 2003 he established REDCAT, (the Roy & Edna Disney CalArts Theatre), which greatly expanded CalArts’ reach into both the domestic and international art world. Concurrently, he led fundraising efforts that resulted in new buildings for visual and performing arts, as well as new community spaces.

“It’s impossible to think of CalArts without thinking of Steven,” stated Rajan. “I’ve always been in awe of how his leadership and collaboration has allowed CalArts to transform into a global leader in the arts. It’s my hope to continue the richness that he has helped to create and to dutifully guide CalArts through its next evolutionary step.”

Rajan will relocate to the Los Angeles area in the summer of 2017. He will be joined by his wife, Lucy Tucker Yates, a renowned opera singer, vocal and diction coach, and the couple’s two sons ages 7 and 3.

Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, California Institute of the Arts 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 Institution 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.

For more information, please visit

Ravi Rajan image: Bellarama Heller