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SMU Adds Art History Chair, Ph.D Program

by Stephen Becker 28 Jun 2010 11:02 AM

SMU has named Dr. Roberto Tejada as the new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History. SMU is able to fund the new endowed position thanks to an anonymous $2 million gift.


SMU has named Dr. Roberto Tejada as the new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History. Tejada comes to the school from the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been an associate professor in the art and art history department for the past two years.

SMU is able to fund the new endowed position thanks to an anonymous $2 million gift. That gift will also fund a new Ph.D. program in art history, which will begin in the fall of 2011 and will be the only such program in North Texas.

Keep reading for the news release:

DALLAS (SMU) — Following an international search, the Department of Art History at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts today announced the appointment of Dr. Roberto Tejada as the new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History, effective August 1. The new endowed senior position was made possible by a generous 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 Dr. José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts.  “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.”

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.


Dr. Tejada comes to SMU from The University of Texas at Austin, where for the past two years he has been an associate professor in the art and art history department. Prior to that he taught for six years at the University of California-San Diego, where he was one of eight prominent scholars specifically hired by the university to promote interdisciplinary research and create synergies among departments, programs and research centers. Dr. Tejada was considered by his colleagues to be the catalytic force linking Latin American studies with literature, media history and the visual arts. Before teaching at San Diego, Tejada held a post-doctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College.

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 seven years as executive editor for 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 in such journals as Afterimage, Aperture, The Brooklyn Rail, SF Camerawork and Third Text.  In 1991 he founded, and is now co-editor of, Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas, one of the premier bilingual journals of poetry, poetics, and visual arts from the Americas; he will continue to publish the journal at SMU.

Tejada is also a prolific and highly accomplished poet. Adrienne Rich, one of the country’s most venerated living poets and a National Book Award winner, selected Tejada as one of only six writers to contribute an essay on her work to a special issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

As a curator, Dr. Tejada’s exhibits have included “Manuel Álvarez Bravo: Optical Parables” at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; “Paper Traces: Latin American Prints and Drawings” at the San Diego Museum of Art; and “Luis Gispert: Loud Image” at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum, among others.

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


Dallas’s increasingly vibrant arts community, its nationally recognized museums and collections, and the attention focused on the arts resulting from the construction of the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, provided an important impetus for SMU to create a doctoral program in art history.

The 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 innovative curriculum for the new Ph.D. is called ‘RASC/A,’ which stands for ‘Rhetorics of Art, Space and Culture,’ ” said 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. 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.”

SMU’s Department of Art History has an exemplary faculty with national and international reputations and a rigorous and respected program. In the last five years, the nine-member department has published five single-authored books through such presses as Yale and Cambridge and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Fulbright, J. Paul Getty, Samuel H. Kress and Woodrow Wilson foundations, among others.

The new Ph.D. builds on the experience and success of the art history M.A. program launched in 1983; its graduates have regularly gone on to doctoral programs at such institutions as Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell and the Courtauld Institute at the University of London. The new Ph.D. program is expected to begin in fall 2011.