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Major Gift from Philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton Creates the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair

Major Gift from Philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton Creates the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair

Charles Gaines in exhibition Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989 at the Hammer Museum.
Photo: Steve Gunther, courtesy of CalArts. Click here for a high a resolution image.

Valencia, CA—August 28—As arts organizations around the world grapple with the historic underrepresentation of non-white artists, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is striving to acknowledge and overcome the legacy of white supremacy in its systems and practices. CalArts School of Art faculty member and acclaimed artist Charles Gaines is central to the Institute’s efforts towards greater equity. This month, CalArts will launch the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair to provide much-needed support to Black and underrepresented faculty in the School of Art.

At this pivotal moment, philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton honors Gaines with a $5 million gift to create the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair. The gift will also facilitate further development of Black and other underrepresented faculty members in the School of Art through its support of research, creative activities and curriculum innovation. Norton’s generosity pays tribute to Gaines while helping CalArts fulfill its values of creating a more representative and diverse artistic community.

“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 will be the first to hold the endowed position of Charles Gaines Faculty Chair. Preference for future appointment will be given to faculty members from underrepresented groups, including those who self-identify as Black.   

Gaines has had an enormous impact on students at CalArts during his three decades at the Institute. His work with Black artists has been particularly notable. During his career at the Institute, Gaines has mentored such acclaimed Black artists as Mark BradfordRodney McMillanLauren HalseyEdgar Arceneaux, and Henry Taylor, among others.

"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 underrecognized presence and I want his influence to be known and brought to a wider audience.”

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.