How do you measure a legacy?
That’s the question ArtCenter asked itself this past summer when alumnus Fred Fehlau (BFA 79 Fine Art; MFA 88 Art) announced he was retiring as provost of the College at the end of the year.
“When I first arrived at ArtCenter in the summer of 1976, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life and my career,” said Fehlau in a letter circulated widely to the College community. “But like many of our students, what I wanted to do changed more than once during that time.”
This decision is not like swimming to the next island. It is like jumping into deep water.Fred Fehlau
Serving as provost since 2010, Fehlau oversaw the College’s educational departments. While provost, he helped launch several departments (Interaction Design, Graduate Graphic Design, Graduate Environmental Design and Graduate Transportation Design and Systems); the Social Innovation minor; new tracks in Entertainment Design, Illustration and Graduate Media Design Practices (MDP); supported initiatives such as the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography, the Sewing Lab, new wearable and VR technologies; and expanded Study Away opportunities for students.
Fehlau’s dedication to the institution stretches back 30 years. Previously he served as a faculty member for the Foundation Studies, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Photography, Illustration, MDP, and Humanities and Sciences departments (receiving seven Great Teacher awards), as chair of the Foundation Studies Department (now Integrated Studies) and as dean of Academic Affairs.
“ArtCenter taught me that knowing how to do something—or more specifically, how to figure out how to do something—is more important than knowing what to do,” Fehlau continued. “What I share with my former students, my fellow alumni, my teachers and my colleagues, is how to take on something without really knowing exactly what will result, to have the curiosity and the confidence to try new things, and to learn and change in the process. This is the part of an ArtCenter education that I have sought to preserve: to teach our students—and ourselves—how.”
“Deciding to retire has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, far more difficult than deciding to come here as a student over 40 years ago,” said Fehlau, adding that beyond spending more time with his partner and pursuing personal work, his post-ArtCenter endeavors are unknown. “This decision is not like swimming to the next island. It is like jumping into deep water. But I jump knowing that my orange life preserver will not let me drown.”