In 2014, Alumni Stuart B. Cooper (‘72) and Rebecca L. Besson established the Stuart B. Cooper Endowed Chair in Photography. This endowed fund will annually bring an acclaimed artist and scholar to engage with the BFA photography department to inspire the next generation of artists and thinkers in the photographic medium.
The Endowed Chair is a critic-in-residence for the BFA Photography Program, and includes several visits over the course of the academic year. The individual in this position shares their practice as an artist, curator and critic with the students, and engages with students in critical discussions about their emerging practices. The Endowed Chair provides important feedback and nurtures growth in the students through group discussions, individual and group critiques and topical lectures related to their own scholarship.
Acclaimed scholar, historian, curator and artist Dr. Deborah Willis joined the Department for the 2019–2020 academic year as the inaugural Stuart B. Cooper Endowed Chair in Photography.
Dr. Willis is a university professor and chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, Iconicity and Cultural Histories, Visualizing the Black Body, Women and Gender. She is also the director of the NYU Institute for African American Affairs and the Center for Black Visual Culture. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation, contemporary women photographers and beauty.
In addition to her role in the department, Dr. Willis gave a free and open-to-the-public lecture to share her vibrant practices with the community as a whole. She also curated an exhibition, “Migrating Bodies: Artists Reimagine Migration,” spotlighting national artists alongside artists of the MICA community.
She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and was a Richard D. Cohen Fellow in African and African American Art, Hutchins Center, Harvard University; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow; and Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. Fellow.
Deborah Willis, Santeka’s Shoes, From the Closet Series, 2018