VCUarts Dean Joseph H. Seipel Announces Retirement

Joseph H. Seipel, who has served as dean of the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University for the past five years, has announced his retirement effective June 30, 2016.

“Joe’s leadership has made VCU a creative campus,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “From the support he galvanized to raise funds for the Institute for Contemporary Art to the dynamic, cross-disciplinary connections and innovative programs he has initiated across the university, Joe has been instrumental in positioning the School of the Arts as a global, forward-thinking institution.”

Seipel began his career in higher education with a one-year contract at VCU in 1974. He served as chair of the Department of Sculpture for 17 years, then as the VCUarts senior associate dean and director of graduate studies for eight years. He was appointed dean of the School of the Arts in the spring of 2011. Accomplishments achieved under his tenure as dean include:

– VCUarts’ graduate fine arts programs were ranked number two in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s peer assessment survey, just behind Yale University (March 2016). The school is once again the number one ranked public fine arts program;

– Four years ago, with VCU’s senior team, Seipel helped negotiate a second 10-year contract with the Qatar Foundation to operate VCUarts Qatar, a fully accredited branch campus of VCUarts;

– Recently, exchange agreements were signed with arts and design schools in Finland, India, Israel, and Korea, and discussions are currently underway in China and Cuba, ensuring the school’s global commitment to cutting-edge arts and design. VCUarts is one of 15 U.S. art schools that have been voted membership in Cumulus, a global association that serves art and design education and research;

– Seipel played a pivotal role in raising funds—over $34M—for VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art, designed by Steven Holl architects and currently under construction at the corner of Downtown Richmond’s Belvidere and Broad Streets;

– Advocating for arts research by supporting forward-thinking faculty in the creation of the Arts Research Institute, to launch in the fall of 2016, and hiring the first executive director of research for VCUarts;

– Ensuring continuing contributions to the national discussion on research in the arts with membership in a2ru, the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities;

– Creating new programs and partnerships, with the bold efforts of visionary faculty and administrators, to connect students around campus and with the creative and business marketplace. Notable examples include the da Vinci Center, which brings arts students together with business and engineering students to work on product development and design projects; CoLab, a for-credit internship program that pairs students from different disciplines to harness emerging technologies for clients in Richmond; the Creative Entrepreneurship Certificate, a four-course program where students develop business models for creative-based businesses; and the Advanced Media Production Technology post-graduate certificate, which provides graduates with employment opportunities in the digital media production field;

– Attaining approval from the State Council of Higher Education for VCUarts to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Arts, allowing for new degree concentrations that will broaden interdisciplinary opportunities for students wishing to pursue non-traditional tracks of study;

– With enthusiastic support from the VCU Medical campus, spearheading opportunities for interdisciplinary research between the Arts and Healthcare, making VCU and VCUarts national leaders in this field;

– Transforming the Depot Building on Broad Street to provide over 26,000 square feet of creative, interdisciplinary space for students, faculty, and the community. The complex now houses a student gallery, classrooms and offices, dance studios, a motion capture studio, and a large, multi-purpose room that is outfitted with the latest technology for peer-to-peer collaborations;

– Securing $6.7M in gifts and pledges in FY15/16 to support VCUarts’ core educational programs and initiatives.

“To have been able to play a part in transforming the lives of hundreds of students’ who have come through this institution has been a gift of immeasurable scale,” says Seipel. “It has been an incredible journey, and one that has been life fulfilling. I will truly miss my daily interaction with faculty and staff colleagues, on both the Richmond and Qatar campus, and the camaraderie and good spirit of VCU and the School of the Arts. I fully intend to continue my passionate advocacy for VCU and VCUarts, even as I move into this next chapter of my life. I especially look forward to having more time to spend with my incredible wife and daughter … and for the sculpture studio that is lonely and looks forward to my return.”

Seipel received his Bachelor of Science degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Maryland Institute’s Rinehart School of Sculpture.

He has been an advisor and appointed to boards and committees for the Commonwealth of Virginia by four state governors. Seipel was appointed by Governor Douglas Wilder to the Task Force for the Promotion of the Arts in Virginia (1995–96), by Governor George Allen to the Virginia Art and Architecture Review Board (1997–99), by Governor Mark Warner to the Civil Rights Memorial Commission (2005–08), and by Governor Timothy Kaine as an Advisor to the Virginia Public Safety Memorial Committee (2007–09).

He is a long-time member of the Mid-America College Art Association board, served three terms on the board of the National Council of Arts Administrators and two terms as president of the NCAA organization. He was the Virginia representative to the Board of Directors for the Southeastern College Art Association (2006–2009).

Seipel received the Award for Distinguished Service in 1999 from both the School of the Arts and Virginia Commonwealth University. He was honored for his lifetime achievements in sculpture education in 2001 when he received the International Sculpture Center’s Sculpture Educators Award. He was honored with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2007 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he now serves on the University of Wisconsin’s Art Board of Visitors.

Deeply dedicated to the Richmond community, Seipel served on the Urban Design Committee for the City of Richmond (1992–1998), on an early advisory team for the Children’s Museum, on the Performing Arts Center’s Downtown Richmond Public Arts Committee (2005), on the board of directors for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2004–2010), and he was the founding president of the 1708 Gallery, one of the oldest artist-run spaces in the U.S. He was a founding board member of The River City Bank, which started in Mechanicsville, Va., and had three branches in the Richmond area. He also co-owned the popular Texas Wisconsin Border Café in Richmond for 17 years.

Seipel’s past studio production has been monumental in scale and ranges from conceptually based objects to multimedia pieces and robotics. His numerous national and international exhibition venues have included, among others, exhibitions in New York City, Peru, Milan, Baltimore, and Richmond.

A national search will be conducted to find Seipel’s successor.


March 23, 2016