Carol N. Shiffman, executive director of several multidisciplinary arts organizations with over 25 years experience in dance and arts education, has been appointed Dean of the School of the Arts, Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, State University of New York, effective July 1.
“We welcome Carol,” said Thomas J. Schwarz, President of Purchase College. “She is an extraordinary educator and arts presenter whose commitment to multidisciplinary collaboration and academic excellence make her an ideal candidate to lead the Conservatory of Dance and continue to enhance its internationally-renowned programs.”
Ms. Shiffman succeeds Carol K. Walker who was at the helm of the Conservatory of Dance for the past 23 years.
“Dance has always been at the heart of Ms. Shiffman’s commitment to the arts,” said Elizabeth Langland, Provost of Purchase College. “She has been a practicing dance artist, the artistic director of a dance company and executive director of multidisciplinary arts organizations such as Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington, and senior staff for the statewide California Arts Council. She was the founder and artistic director of Momentum, the professional modern dance company in Los Angeles and has always had a strong personal imperative to contribute to the growth of the next generation of aspiring artists.”
“I have enormous respect for the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College and the profound impact it has had on the lives of its students and in the dance world,” said Ms. Shiffman. “I am honored to assume its leadership.”
“Experimentation and collaboration across boundaries have always been the guiding principles in my work,” she continued. “My insistence on excellence extends from my passion for profound teaching and learning, to my aesthetics in choreography, and to all aspects of arts presenting.
“In working with students, I try to support their growth, passion, discipline, reflection and inquiry, and encourage them to take daring risks that are grounded in knowledge and respect for the traditions they are challenging. My aim is to help contextualize the role of the arts as an essential, primary experience, and to explore the role of the dance artist in the 21st century.”
A native of New York, Ms. Shiffman joins Purchase from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, where she had served as chair of the music department since 2004 and oversaw a 50 percent growth in enrollment. She also increased community partnerships, expanded the performance series, and provided new performance opportunities for students.
During her six years at Centrum (1998-2003), a multifaceted arts center, she expanded a series of workshops, concerts and festivals, developed a new dance program, and reinvented a residency program that brought over 100 artists to live and work there for up to four weeks.
As program manager at the California Arts Council for 11 years (1987-1998), she promoted excellence in the arts of many cultures. She directed many programs including the Artists in Communities portion of the Artists in Residency program and fostered the careers of many diverse artists and arts organizations. Over 500 grantees were funded annually and she assisted in developing the concept and legislation for the Wayne Thiebaud-designed arts license plate.
As director of Momentum for 10 years (1976-1986), she developed a touring company that over time expanded into a multi-arts center. Interdisciplinary exploration was integral to her work, which included collaborations with musicians, sculptors, painters, and theater and design artists.
During this time, she also helped organize and establish the Los Angeles Area Dance Alliance (now the Dance Resource Center) and the California Association of Dance Companies (now Dance USA).
“Throughout my career I have sought to develop expansive and inclusive programs that allow for creativity and individuality within a clear structure, and with defined long-term goals,” said Ms. Shiffman.
Her love for dancing began at age 5 at the Henry Street Settlement House in New York.
She earned her undergraduate degree in comparative literature with a minor in dance at the University of Rochester. She studied at the Sorbonne and UCLA where she earned 54 units toward a master’s degree in dance. She also studied education, arts management, and film and television at UCLA and at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
She studied dance with the Martha Graham School, Alwin Nikolais Company, Merce Cunningham Company, Jose Limon Company and Bella Lewitsky Dance Company. She has danced in New York, Paris and Los Angeles, and founded the Momentum Dance Company after studying in the graduate dance program at UCLA.
She has taught modern dance, composition, production, performance, dance history, improvisation and yoga and was the director of the dance program at Long Beach City College from 1982-1985.