Lydia Matthews serves as dean of academic programs and professor of Visual Culture at Parsons The New School for Design, where she has lead a collaborative faculty effort to redesign the undergraduate curriculum and is now launching a new Curatorial Design Research Lab.
Trained as an art historian at UC Berkeley and The Courtauld Institute in London, she taught for 17 years at CCA, where she cofounded and chaired the Graduate Program in Visual Critical Studies as well as directed the Graduate Program in Fine Arts.
Her work examines how artists, artisans, and designers foster democratic debates and intimate community interactions in the public sphere, often in response to a variety of urgent global conditions.
In 2001 Matthews worked with master craftspeople and students at the Kunming Nationalities Institute in China’s Yunnan Province, sparking her interest in developing a more robust critical discourse around craft. Since then, her essays on the role of craft in contemporary culture have appeared in exhibition catalogs including Southern Exposure’s Practice Makes Perfect: Bay Area Conceptual Craft (2005) and the American Craft Council’s Shaping the Future of Craft conference publication (2007).
Her curatorial commissions include international exhibitions and urban intervention projects in post-Soviet countries and in Greece, including curating the U.S. pavilions of Artisterium International (2010, 2008) and Art Caucasus Biennial (2005, 2007) in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, where she will work with the Open Society Institute in 2011-12.
In Athens she has collaborated with immigrant communities on the Routes and Homes Project at the Byzantine Museum, and throughout spring 2011 she will collaborate on Against All Odds: Ethics / Aesthetics at the Benaki Museum, which includes a major exhibition, academic conference, and U.S. / Greek pedagogical exchange exploring ecological and social sustainability practiced through participatory codesign.