Peter Betjemann, a national expert on the history of art, design and literature, has been named the inaugural director of arts and education for Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts
Betjemann, director of the college’s School of Writing, Literature and Film since 2016, will oversee the opening of the university’s new Arts and Education Complex. Construction of the $70 million complex will begin this summer with the 49,000-square foot center to open in January 2024.
“Peter is a visionary leader and the right person to execute our ambitious plan around continuing to elevate the arts at OSU,” said Larry Rodgers, dean of the college. “We are fortunate to have someone with his leadership and visual arts expertise in this critical role of delivering a campus-wide vision of arts for all.”
Rodgers said Betjemann will work to elevate the prominence of art, music, theater and culture for OSU students and faculty, and mid-Willamette Valley residents.
“As a public institution acting on behalf of the people of Oregon and the world, we have a special responsibility at OSU not just to present art but to engage audiences,” Betjemann said. “The Arts and Education Complex is much more than a new arts building. It’s an architectural and curricular space devoted above all to inclusivity – a place where students, visitors and audiences will find heaps of educational content and boundary-breaking interventions in the old notion that art exists for a privileged few.”
Betjemann will oversee the management of the arts complex staff, programming, curation, fundraising, marketing, public relations, budget, and community and educational outreach.
“Peter’s charge will be to develop a unified arts calendar, work with faculty on curriculum and co-curriculum, create internship opportunities,” said Rodgers.
“Most importantly, he will work to elevate the national profile and coherence of all of the areas – from visual art to creative writing, theater to digital communications, and music to film. Essential aspects of the position include leading antiracist approaches to art curation, display, and involvement and building upon the ‘arts for all’ and ‘STEM to STEAM’ elements of the arts and entertainment complex vision.”
Betjemann is the author of “Talking Shop: The Language of Craft in an Age of Consumption,” which examines how the rise of arts objects influenced literary production. His current scholarship describes how literary-themed paintings in the 19th century engaged with racial violence, Native dispossession and African slavery.
He is finishing a book on this topic, and has published in such venues as American Art, Word and Image, The Journal of Design History and The Archives of American Art Journal. He is a principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant that uses early landscape painting in the United States to assess historical forest conditions – from species composition to stand age – in pre-photography eras.
photo by Brian Nguyen, Orange Media Group