Steven Lavine, President of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), is pleased to announce that award-winning film and video maker Leighton Pierce will be Dean of the School of Film/Video as of July 1. Pierce will succeed current Dean Steve Anker who has held the post since 2004. Dean Anker is stepping down to pursue new projects and will continue teaching as a full-time faculty member.
Selected from a strong and diverse applicant pool, Pierce’s appointment recognizes his remarkable breadth of educational experience and artistic achievements. “Leighton combines practical acumen with creative vision and brings strong administrative experience as well,” said Lavine. “At his previous institutions, he developed film and video curricula that reflected the ever-evolving technical and cultural terrain, and as an artist, his exceptional independent process, which crosses mediums and formats, fits perfectly with CalArts’ experimental ethos.”
“I have long admired CalArts,” noted Pierce. “As I learn more about its unique chemistry, I look forward to working with the faculty, students and staff in the School of Film/Video, and all of the schools, to cultivate dynamic, vibrant and integrated educational experiences for moving-image and sound makers in the 21st century.”
CalArts Provost Jeannene Przyblyski commented, “Leighton has just the right blend of creativity, skepticism and practicality to lead our Film/Video School into the next chapter of its already distinguished history. I am excited to work with him to ensure that our programs, faculty and student work continue to challenge assumptions about cinema in all its forms.”
In 2011, Pierce was recruited by the Pratt Institute to lead its newly reconfigured Film/Video Department. There, he guided a total redesign of the BFA curriculum, oversaw upgrading of technical resources and led the design process of a new Film/Video building. Appointed Acting Dean of the Pratt School of Art and Design from Fall 2012 through Summer 2014, he is spearheading efforts towards major reform of the undergraduate curriculum structure.
From 2001-2011, Pierce was head of the Program in Film and Video Production at the University of Iowa where he also taught classes in all aspects of film and video making, with an emphasis on the conceptual development of sound and image relationships in film, video and installation.
Fellow experimental filmmaker Jon Jost wrote that Pierce’s work “pulses with a beauty which calls forth agape, its formal structure pointing to the realm of icons.” His multi-channel site-specific installations and single channel videos evoke experiences in transformative time—reshaping ordinary sounds and visual impressions into ecstatic experiences filled with sensory rediscoveries of the world.
Before making films, Pierce studied ceramics and music composition, especially jazz and electronic music. The continuation of this early interest in music, and the related process of constructing emotional experiences in time, continue to guide his practice. Pierce executes all aspects of his works himself including the conception, cinematography, editing, sound design and musical composition.
Pierce’s work has been exhibited in major art museums and film festivals throughout the world, including The Whitney Biennial; the Sundance, San Francisco, New York, Tribeca, Ann Arbor, and Rotterdam film festivals; and the Exploratorium, Montreal Museé d’Art Contemporaine, and The Sheldon Art Museum. Retrospectives of his works have been presented at venues such as The New Zealand Film Festival, Lincoln Center, The Cinémathèque Française, Festival Nemo, the Pompidou Center in Paris, and at The Lisbon Biennale.
Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, 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.