March 21 2019
Tony Whitfield (b. 1954) was interviewed by Wendy Scheir at The New School’s University Center Library at 63 Fifth Avenue on March 21, 2019. In the interview Whitfield describes his early life, undergraduate education at Sarah Lawrence College, work in the not-for-profit sector, and transition to teaching. He begins by speaking about his family’s relocation from North Philadelphia to a suburb in 1964, his early and persistent interest in art, and experience as a high school student at the Germantown Friends School. Whitfield remembers struggling with his identity as a queer African American at Germantown. From there, he recounts his decision to attend Sarah Lawrence, a private liberal arts college in Bronxville, New York. Whitfield describes working under Mary Delahoyd, a professor of art history, who facilitated his entry into the New York art scene. He recounts his first years out of college living in New York doing a series of odd jobs, and finally being hired by Larry Aldrich to work at the Soho Center for Visual Artists. Whitfield describes how this position morphed into a career in arts nonprofits. Whitfield describes his subsequent work at Printed Matter, Artists Space, Just Above Midtown, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). He recalls wanting a change in career towards the end of his time at LMCC. From LMCC, Whitfield was hired as a senior policy analyst for cultural affairs in the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. While working for the Manhattan Borough President, and making freelance furniture, he remembers being offered a position teaching furniture design at City College. Whitfield recounts how he began teaching at Parsons School of Design. At Parsons, Whitfield held a several of leadership roles. He recalls the circumstances under which he was appointed chair of the Product Design Department and describes the challenges of his subsequent roles as associate dean for civic engagement and director of social engagement at Parsons. Whitfield recounts his transition to teaching in Parsons’ Art History Design and Theory (AHDT) department after suffering from a stroke. Throughout the latter half of the interview, Whitfield describes the transitions he has witnessed at Parsons since his arrival in the early 1990s.
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