The Hippo


May 29, 2020








Kent Devereaux. Courtesy photo.

Introducing Kent Devereaux
NHIA’s new president talks about the school’s future

By Kelly Sennott

After almost a year of searching, the New Hampshire Institute of Art Board of Trustees unanimously selected Kent Devereaux as its next president. The decision became public at the end of November, and Devereaux will begin in January. 

NHIA has been without a president since Roger William retired last November. NHIA Chairman of the Board Joe Reilly said he is particularly excited about the appointment because of Devereaux’s varied background. 
Devereaux is currently a professor and music department chair at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, but has also served as senior vice president and dean of curriculum at Kaplan University; senior vice president of Encyclopedia Britannica; and taught for many years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where he earned his visual art BFA) and California Institute of the Arts. He also studied computer science at Stanford.
Deveraux talked with the Hippo last week about the job, the institute and why a growing art school is exactly what Manchester needs.
What interested you in the job?
This will be the fourth arts college I’ve worked at. … I kind of have a love of art colleges in general. I’m always amazed at the quality of the student work and the transformation that goes on.
Was there something that struck you particularly about Manchester?
I was impressed by the quality of the work and the quality of the faculty. That’s what kind of tipped the scales for me. … I also liked what I saw in terms of how the institute has developed the past 10 years. … Even more important is the impact the institute has had on the local Manchester downtown economy, and now with the master’s program in Peterborough. ... All the elements were there. Now it’s really about getting those elements working together, marketed well, and just doing all the things necessary to take the institute to the next level … which means recruiting nationally, adding more vitality to the local arts scene and being a big driver in the economic rejuvenation of Manchester.
What do you think is needed to bring the institute to that next level?
In a word, partnerships. Anyone taking over the institute at this point is going to realize the college cannot do it on its own. It’s a small college, and it’s growing, and it wants to grow more, but it’s never going to be an enormous college. It will be multiplied by forging really smart partnerships. How can we work better with corporations located in the region through not only commissions, but also internships and innovative new programs that really get to the core of what the new creative economy is?
You think the school’s growth will affect Manchester economically. How so?
Over the next 10 years, the numbers will probably almost double in terms of students downtown. ...With more students living downtown, they’ll be needing to eat downtown, and they’ll probably go out downtown. … Another thing that’s very interesting, from the alumni I’ve talked to so far, is that students from throughout the New England community come to Manchester, and they realize they really like Manchester. … It’s not too big, and families and friends are close by. And it has qualities of a small town that they like. Many alums stay in Manchester and start their careers here.
What do you think are the skills art students need in order to be successful after graduation?
When you ask alumni of successful arts programs about the skills that really changed their lives … it comes down to the ability to express, not only their own ideas, but also engage in a larger conversation through their own medium. … This involves developing writing skills, which are so essential in any job or profession. Even if it’s about writing your own artist’s statement, the ability to articulate what you do and why you do it and why you’re passionate about it is clearly transferrable to a lot of things. … Then there’s critical thinking and the ability to give and take criticism. … And empathy, the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Those are the skills any employer will value, as well as hard work and discipline. 
Do you think the institute’s growth will affect the community in other ways?
One is the community education component. … The BFA program has been around for about 12 years, the MFA program the last two to three years. These are the new shiny toys. Everyone at the institute is very fascinated [by] that and really focused on that, but there’s also this 100-year-old tradition of community education. We will have to get back to that in a major way. 
You also have a background in music and computer science. Do you envision those subjects being incorporated more at NHIA?
We will definitely be doing a lot more with technology, just because that’s the way the world is. If you’re talking about sculpture today, you’re talking about sculpture that’s sometimes involving computers and robots and spaces that change and interact when people walk to them. … In illustration today, students are … doing their work on the computer in various different formats. When you talk about the way any kind of 3-D object is created today, you have people working entirely on computers. ...You’re going to start seeing all of those things blend.
Even for those people who don’t think they like art, why is it beneficial to have a growing artist community in Manchester? 
I think the rise of the Apple computer has not only demonstrated the importance of the creative economy …  but also the importance design can play in creating value. A lot of companies have woken up to this in the last 10 years. … It’s no anomaly that Target rose to national prominence while capitalizing on its design sense. … It carved a niche for itself, and Apple did the same thing. … Technology has given us a lot of great things — the automobile has four wheels and gets us from here to there, but people also value aesthetic design in automobile companies, and they charge a lot of money for tiny minor details that add aesthetic. 
So you think having more art in Manchester may help local businesses?
And when companies are deciding where to locate, they honestly look at, what’s the local cultural life? Am I going to be able to hire people and have them want to move to the city and be happy and raise their families there? … The arts played a role in transforming Brooklyn from a backwater borough to a hip and trendy borough that’s driving real estate prices up. You’re seeing that now in Detroit, too. … But the arts are so much more. You can have conversations through art. 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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