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Sarah Lawrence

Faculty / Sarah Lawrence, Dean, School of Art and Design History and Theory

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The key to understanding the future of design may be hidden in our pre-industrial past, according to Sarah E. Lawrence, dean of the School of Art and Design History and Theory (ADHT). “The distinction between the fine arts and the industrial arts didn’t really exist before the 17th century,” she says. “You wouldn’t choose between being an artist or a designer. You were understood necessarily to be both.” 

After spending a decade at the helm of the MA Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design, housed at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Lawrence is looking forward to bringing this hybrid approach, which mirrors her own academic journey, downtown. “I was trained as an art historian, focusing on Italian Renaissance art history and decorative arts,” Lawrence says. “It was exciting for me to move out of working strictly in the humanities and bring a rich engagement with history to art and design education.”

ADHT is already an integral part of the Parsons educational experience, as it is home to the liberal studies courses required of all undergraduates. In the coming years, Lawrence hopes to expand this role, making ADHT’s scholarship and curriculum a resource for the entire university. “The New School has such a wealth of teaching and scholarship in the humanities and social sciences,” she says. “The more we draw on and contribute to this activity, the more opportunities we will find for fruitful exchange among both the faculty and the students.”

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