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Sharon Louden Named Artistic Director of Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of Sharon Louden as the artistic director and Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Chair of its resident visual arts program, VACI (Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution). In this capacity, Louden will oversee a dynamic department composed of the Chautauqua School of Art, Strohl and Fowler-Kellogg Art Centers, an artist lecture series and growing education and community engagement programs. Louden succeeds Don Kimes, who announced in November his intention to step down following the 2018 Chautauqua season.

“It is an honor to receive the opportunity to build upon the legacy Don Kimes has left after his remarkable 33-year tenure,” Louden said. “I’m excited to develop an incubator of inclusive, expansive programming in the visual arts, including professional development for artists, the art of pedagogy, writing in the 21st century, and emphasizing the relevance of art history today. I’m looking forward to collaborating with everyone at Chautauqua as we increase the value of the visual arts through VACI’s programming.”

Louden will assume the artistic director role at VACI effective Sept. 1, and immediately begin preparations for her inaugural season in 2019. Her appointment is the culmination of a search and selection process led by Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, with the assistance of a search committee of nationally known advisers, Institution trustees, members of the volunteer community support group VACI Partners, and other credentialed members of the Chautauqua community.

“I hoped that our next artistic director would be able to build on Don Kimes’ legacy, offer her own bold vision for the future of VACI, and be able to bring increasing recognition and diversity to our program,” Moore said. “I believe Sharon can do all this and more. She offers an unmatched combination of being recognized nationally, committed locally and engaged socially through her generous spirit and much-lauded accomplishments.”

Louden has contributed to Chautauqua’s visual arts programs in several different seasons as a guest faculty member and lecturer on the Visual Arts Lecture Series.

“Having known Sharon Louden for more than 25 years, I know that her energy, enthusiasm and support for art and artists is continuous, passionate and contagious,” Kimes said. “I am so pleased to know that an artist with this kind of conviction and a deep belief in the power of art will be succeeding my three-plus decades building the visual art programs here at Chautauqua. Sharon’s background places her in a position to sustain and continue to develop Chautauqua’s national and international reputation. I look forward to working closely in this transition to new leadership.” 

Louden is an artist, educator, advocate for artists, and editor of the Living and Sustaining a Creative Life series of books. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Drawing Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Weisman Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Upcoming exhibitions include solo shows at the University of Wyoming Art Museum in Laramie, Wyoming, in 2018–19, and the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2019.

An educator since 1991, Louden’s teaching experience includes studio and professional practice classes for students of all levels in many institutions throughout the United States. Colleges and universities at which she has lectured and taught include the Kansas City Art Institute, College of Saint Rose, Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Vanderbilt University. She currently serves on the faculty in the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York and as a senior critic at the New York Academy of Art, where she organizes a popular lecture series. Louden graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University School of Art. 

View her full biography at and

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