Ravi Rajan was just named the fourth president at CalArts. (Balarama Heller)
Ravi Rajan was just named the fourth president at CalArts. (Balarama Heller)

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Ravi Rajan, the dean of the School of the Arts at Purchase College, State University of New York, was named president of the California Institute of the Arts on Tuesday following a unanimous board vote.

Rajan, a musician, teacher and administrator who has also worked in computer animation, will serve as the organization’s fourth president — and its first of Asian American ethnicity.

Speaking in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rajan said he was excited to assume control at a school that has long harbored a confluence of ideas and an institutional ethos of experimentation.

“That’s what’s hugely exciting about this opportunity,” he told the Times. “And at this moment, it’s more important than ever. Our immediate politics, our understanding of our differences — we’ve gone to a different place. It’s at this open moment where we are going to define a new set of rules, and I think culture-makers need to be there defining the rules.”

He has worked at SUNY Purchase College for 16 years and was named dean of the School of Arts in 2012. While serving in that capacity, Rajan launched a $100-million capital renovation of the art and design facilities and helped to strengthen the institution’s philanthropic efforts. He also spearheaded the creation of a master’s degree titled Entrepreneurship in the Arts, intended to help students learn how to launch their own arts organizations.

“People confuse it and they think it’s a business thing, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s this desire to create new small entities in the arts. … There is this hegemonic thing that is happening with the big concert hall and the big museum and they take a lot of attention and money. But the cultural sector is not going to diversify unless we put some attention on the small, unique gesture.”

A son of Indian immigrants, Rajan was born in Seattle but raised in Norman. Okla., where he graduated from the University of Oklahoma, eventually making his way to Yale, where he graduated with a degree in music. A trumpet player, he has performed in musical ensembles of all sizes, including theater productions on and off Broadway. The connection to theater is one he maintains: Rajan is a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee.

The announcement of Rajan’s appointment came after a lengthy international search, during which the board at CalArts evaluated more than 500 candidates.

“Ravi shows the fiery passion for the arts that was at the core of CalArts founding,” board chairman Tim Disney said in a statement on Tuesday. “His commitment to excellence and exploration and innovation will help continue CalArts’ rich legacy and unbounded future.”