Art History adds Ph.D program, names Tejada as endowed chair

Roberto TejadaFollowing an international search, the Division of Art History in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts has announced the appointment of Roberto Tejada (right) as the new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History, effective Aug. 1, 2010.

The new endowed position was made possible by an anonymous gift of $2 million, intended to help launch a new Ph.D. program in art history at SMU in the fall of 2011. It will be the first art history Ph.D. program in North Texas and one of only a few in the state.

“Although our donor wishes to remain anonymous, we express our gratitude for this generous support of a major goal of the Second Century Campaign – strengthening our academic programs and increasing the number of endowed academic positions,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The appointment of Dr. Tejada and this innovative new doctoral program in art history leverage the unique resources of the Meadows Museum and the cultural richness of our region.”

A well-known specialist in modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino/U.S. visual culture, Dr. Tejada is also a highly distinguished teacher, art critic, poet, curator and editor. Ramón A. Gutierrez, Preston & Sterling Morton Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Chicago, said that Tejada is regarded as “one of a very small handful of top Latino art historians/critics and as one of Latin America’s most important thinkers in the field.”

“We are thrilled to have Professor Tejada as our new endowed chair,” said Meadows Dean José Bowen. “He has formidable scholarly, curatorial and editorial credentials that will transform SMU’s already excellent art history program into one of national and international prominence, particularly in the arena of Latin American and Iberian studies. Building on the excellence of our existing faculty’s expertise in Colonial Latin America, Pre-Columbian art, and medieval Spain, and also on the strengths of the Meadows Museum and its renowned collection of Spanish art, Dr. Tejada will be a magnet for Ph.D. students around the world.”

Tejada comes to SMU from the University of Texas-Austin, where he is an associate professor in the art and art history department. Previously he taught at the University of California-San Diego, where he was one of 8 prominent scholars specifically hired by the university to promote interdisciplinary research and create synergies among departments, programs and research centers.

Professor Tejada also has lived in Mexico City, taught at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and curated for the Museo de las Artes in Guadalajara. He spent 7 years as executive editor of Artes de México, one of the continent’s leading arts journals, and was on the editorial team of Vuelta Magazine in Mexico City, published by the late Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, which focused on the arts, culture and politics of Latin America. He has published books on Mexican photography and on the artist Celia Alvarez Muñoz as well as numerous articles.

An accomplished poet, Tejada founded and is now co-editor of Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas, one of the premiere bilingual journals of poetry, poetics, and visual arts from the Americas. He will continue to publish the journal at SMU.

The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Tejada earned his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies (art history, English, comparative literature and media studies) at the State University of New York-Buffalo and his B.A. in comparative literature at New York University.

The international search for the new chair was led by SMU University Distinguished Professor in Art History Greg Warden. The search committee included numerous prominent scholars, among them W.J.T. Mitchell of the University of Chicago and Annabel J. Wharton of Duke University.

The division’s new Ph.D. program will feature a curriculum with two areas of concentration: one geographic, covering Latin America, Iberia and the Americas; and the other media-based, focusing on technologies of visual communication.

The Ph.D. curriculum is called RASC/A (Rhetorics of Art, Space and Culture,) says Janis Bergman-Carton, chair of art history at SMU. “Rooted in the fields of both art history and visual culture studies, RASC/A builds upon the strengths of the present faculty with renewed emphasis on historical and new media, architecture and the city, and performance and ritual,” she adds. “Emphasizing spatial as well as visual culture, RASC/A extends the department’s commitment to the study of visual technologies, while also advancing transnational scholarship in arts of Latin America, Iberia, and the Americas.

“Dr. Tejada’s extensive work on photography and modern Mexican, Chicano, and Contemporary Latino art history makes him the ideal candidate for this exciting initiative.”

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