The New School Archives Digital Collections

Lydia Matthews



Lydia Matthews, professor of Visual Culture at Parsons School of Design, is a curator, writer, educator and cultural activist. As Parsons' Dean of Academic Programs between 2007-2012, Matthews designed a collaborative process through which faculty members crafted a new undergraduate curriculum, aiming to provide more cross-disciplinary opportunities for students and faculty across the division. Through a series of "charrettes" (i.e., intensive workshops) and committee work that she facilitated, faculty in the newly established "five schools" of Parsons identified the kinds of skills that young designers and artists would need to work successfully in the 21st Century. Through these dialogues and debates, they envisioned administrative structures and pedagogical strategies that would support the breadth and depth required for their contemporary practice to flourish. The administrative shifts and new Parsons-wide curriculum was ultimately launched in Fall 2014.

In her own work, Matthews explores how today’s artists, artisans and designers foster critical democratic debates and intimate community interactions in the public sphere, often in response to a variety of urgent global and local conditions in their daily lives.  Trained as a modern and contemporary art historian at UC Berkeley and London’s Courtauld Institute, her essays have appeared in numerous journals and exhibition catalogs, and she has lectured internationally on socially-engaged art, craft and design practices. Commissioned by Fulbright, Open Society Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, CEC Artslink, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Emre Senan Foundation and the US Embassy in the Republic of Georgia, her participatory curatorial projects in New York, the Post-Soviet region, Turkey and Southern Europe include exhibitions, community-based urban festivals, and multidisciplinary pedagogical exchanges addressing ecological and social sustainability.

Related collection

Parsons School of Design oral history program

Related object

Audio interview with Lydia Matthews

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