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Leading with passion, intellect and inclusiveness

Robert MilnesRobert Milnes felt like he came to UNT at the right time.

In 2006, Milnes had been the director of the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University in California, where the economy had been suffering.

But the economics and demographics in the Dallas-Fort Worth region seemed ripe, especially with Dallas’ art district and creative community on the verge of growing.

“I thought it would be fun to be part of it,” Milnes said.

Nearly nine years later, Milnes is retiring from his position as dean for the College of Visual Arts and Design at the end of August. A search for his replacement is underway. He leaves with many accomplishments during his time, noting his predictions about DFW.

“All of it came true,” he said.

Milnes already knew about CVAD’s excellent reputation from his 36 years in academia. When he arrived, UNT already had such resources like the Texas Fashion Collection, Print Research Institute of North Texas (P.R.I.N.T.) and the North Texas Institute on Education in the Visual Arts (NTIEVA).

Milnes built on those programs and establish others such as Art in Public Places and the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute, adding scholarships, institute funding and endowments.

CVAD developed a new student gallery and renovated facilities in Hickory Hall along with prominent space in Dallas with the Design Research Center and Fashion on Main Street, which is now UNT ArtSpace Dallas, in downtown.

Milnes also helped form UNT on the Square, the art gallery in downtown Denton, and the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, which sponsors the artist-in-residence and Faculty Fellows programs, and the Institute for Advanced Research Technology and the Arts (iARTA) research cluster.

Under his leadership, CVAD became accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Milnes was president of that organization, as well as the National Council of Art Administrators.

Milnes also hired more than one-third of the current faculty, and he noted that he helped adjust their heavy teaching course workload so they could have more time to conduct research and work on their own scholarship, art and design projects.

“We will miss his intellect, his inclusiveness, his good-natured demeanor, his passion for the arts,” said Jerry Austin, associate professor of studio arts who was chairman of the studio art department when Milnes arrived. “He is a great guy and an inspiring leader.”

Milnes originally thought he would work at UNT for 10 years. But after a year-long bout with cancer, which is currently in remission, he and his wife Karen were looking to work on other projects.

They plan to live in the artistic community of Asheville, N.C., and Milnes wants to spend time on his ceramics work. An exhibition of his work will be on display from June 28 to July 26 at the Cohn Drennan Contemporary art gallery in Dallas.

He also hopes to mentor young executives and train evaluators in the art organizations and continue his work as an evaluator and consultant to art and design programs.

“It was time to move on to the next years of our lives,” he said.

But he will miss UNT.

“Karen and I have made some very good friends,” he said.

- Jessica DeLeón, University Relations, Communication and Marketing

Photo by Ahna Hubnik/URCM.

Posted on: Wed 18 June 2014

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