The Undergraduate Fine Arts Program will soon come under new leadership.
Ken Lum has been recommended as the new Director of the Undergraduate Fine Arts Program and as a full professor. Lum assumed the responsibilities of these positions on July 1, but his official appointment is awaiting approval from the University.
Lum is an established artist, known for his photographic and sculptural works involving the public sphere, identity and politics. He has participated in large scale bi-annual exhibitions across Europe and Asia, curatorial shows and historical shows. He held notable positions at several distinguished universities, including the University of British Columbia — where he also headed the Graduate Studio Art Program — and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Lum has also published various essays and founded Yishu: The Journal on Contemporary Chinese Art.
He will be succeeding Julie Schneider, artist and adjunct professor at Penn, who has directed the Undergraduate Fine Arts program and taught at the University for 17 years. She will work another two weeks before retiring.
Schneider was involved with the search for the new director and met with each of the final candidates for the position.
“I think they chose a wonderful man. [Lum] brings a great deal of experience and enormous prestige to the department … He is an artist who has a grasp on a wide range of disciplines, from photography, to drawing to installations. His understanding of the state of contemporary art will play into his guidance of the curriculum.”
She also believes Lum can bring new ideas and achieve department goals. “Currently art courses are not part of the general requirements, and art is another way of looking, so we would like to change that,” Schneider said.
The selection process involved interviews with faculty, Q&A sessions, individual critiques with students and taking two courses. Lum is currently finishing his arrangements to settle in Philadelphia from overseas.
“One thing that brought me to Penn was the challenge. It is a very attractive and renowned school. I was reluctant at first because of the radical changes it would mean, despite the attractiveness, and I was also involved with a lot of projects,” Lum said. However, “the second time I was offered the position, I accepted.”
Lum has new plans in mind for the Fine Arts Department. “I like to challenge students. I think I have a responsibility to discuss the different perspectives, practicalities and impracticalities of art,” he said. “It is something that we should be open about and should be discussed. There should be emphasis on issues in contemporary art, what is important, what isn’t and why?”
Lum also hopes to expand the fine arts community at Penn.
“It is a bit smaller than it should be … I would like to graduate twice the amount of students in fine arts as there are currently. I want students to be able to create interesting, captivating works of art, and doing so is very hard. The goal is to produce artists who can make a difference in the art world, and more so, the entire world.”