Kara Walker Named Tepper Chair at Mason Gross School of the Arts

A Family Tradition Continues

Kara Walker (Sari Goodfriend. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co.)Kara Walker has been named Tepper Chair in Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Commencing Fall 2015, her five-year term is centered on research and collaboration with graduate and undergraduate students.

Walker comes to the position from a strong family background in art college administration. Her father was a distinquished university art school director and her sister is a long-time art college administrator.

At Rutgers, Kara Walker will create a research space that immerses students, and the wider university, in assigned topics through readings, discussions, activities and presentations.

“If anything, I can foster an environment of openness and maybe willingness to live with contentious images and objectionable ideas, particularly in the space of art,” says Walker. “For me it gets us to a place where we can talk to those concerns and how as artists we can creatively solve problems when problems arise.”

Walker says she plans to welcome Rutgers students into a creative conversation: “Rutgers just gave me a sense of what I was missing in the Ivy League, maybe a kind of hunger. The school is really a good place to push at boundaries.”

This famous boundary-pusher is rooted in the more orderly groves of academe. Her father Larry Walker was chairman of the University of the Pacific art department in Stockton, CA, and then director of the Georgia State University School of Art and Design in Atlanta. He also taught art at both universities.  

Kara Walker’s sister, Dana Walker, worked in administrative positions at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and currently serves as managing director of the college’s public programs.

Kara Walker recalled the time she spent with her father during his tenure at the University of the Pacific, when she was interviewed for a 2005 IRAAA article.*  

“I loved roaming around the studios, watching people work, and secretly I took visits to the art supply closet and inhaled the air of dusty paper and tempera paint,” she said. 

The Walker family's college art adminstration experience will come full circle as Kara Walker assumes the Tepper Chair at the Mason Gross School. And, being the first family member to hold an endowed position, she advances the family tradition.

Created in 2011, the Tepper Chair is funded by a $3 million gift from Rutgers College alumna Marlene A. Tepper. Kara Walker follows Catherine Murphy in the position.

Gerry Beegan, chair of the Mason Gross School visual arts department, says Walker’s willingness to tackle new mediums, projects, and venues make her an ideal student mentor. After Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby installation at the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Factory in 2014, her next public project was designing sets, costumes, and directing Bellini’s Norma at the Teatro La Fenice as part of this year’s Venice Biennale.


*Fo Wilson, "On Walls and the Walkers," IRAAA, v. 20, n. 3, 2005