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Tracy K. Smith Named as Chair of Lewis Center for the Arts

Takes Over Helm from Current Chair Michael Cadden, July 2019

Princeton University has named Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and current U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, Director of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing, as the new chair of the University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.  Smith succeeds theater scholar Michael Cadden, Senior Lecturer in the Program in Theater, who has served as chair of the Center since 2012.  Smith will begin her new duties as chair on July 1, 2019.

“It’s been my great pleasure to direct the Program in Creative Writing,” said Smith, “and I am honored and excited to follow Michael Cadden’s brilliant tenure as Lewis Center Chair. I believe that the language and methodology of the arts has something to offer everyone, and I‘m eager to offer more sectors of the Princeton community reason to interact with the LCA, via both coursework and events programming.”

Smith, a resident of Princeton, has been a faculty member in the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Creative Writing since 2006, serving the past three years as the program’s director. She was named as the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of Humanities at the University in 2016, succeeding Joyce Carol Oates, who was the first faculty member to hold this title. In June 2017 Smith was appointed the 22nd U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress and received the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for her poetry collection Life on Mars. Her other books of poetry include Duende, recipient of the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Essense Literary Award, and The Body’s Question, which won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her latest poetry collection, Wade in the Water, is forthcoming in April. Smith is also the author of the memoir Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was named as One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Denver Post. She is also the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, and a Whiting Award. She was the Literature protégé in the 2009-2011 cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California, Smith earned her A.B. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. She taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia University before joining the faculty at Princeton.

Cadden succeeded founding chair of the Lewis Center Paul Muldoon and will have served as chair for eight years when Smith takes over the helm in 2019. Cadden saw the Lewis Center through a pivotal time in the development of the department including the final design, construction, and opening of the 145,000 square foot Lewis Arts complex this past fall, celebrated by a four-day festival of the arts that attracted over 3,500 visitors. Under his leadership the Center has also experienced significant growth and diversification of its course offerings, faculty, course enrollments, and presentation of public events. During his tenure the Center launched the Princeton Arts Fellowship program, the Roger S. Berlind Playwright in Residence program, the new Program in Music Theater certificate, and the Hearst Choreographer in Residence program, among other new initiatives.  Cadden will continue to teach in the Program in Theater after he steps down as chair.

“While I’m eager to return to the classroom on a full-time basis,” said Cadden. “I’m delighted to serve as chair of the Lewis Center for one final year to allow Tracy to continue her gig as Poet Laureate. It’s been an honor for me to work with my faculty, staff, and student colleagues to help give birth to one of Princeton’s newest academic ventures, and it was a thrill to be among those cutting the ribbons at the opening of our new Lewis Arts complex. And soon I’ll have the pleasure of meditating on the happy fact that my years of service will have been bookended by the ‘reigns’ of two Pulitzer Prize winners! Tracy, like Paul Muldoon, is an artist who is open to everything that artists – no matter what their medium — have to offer the world, as well as everything the world has to offer its artists — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Speaking as a theater guy, I know she will be fabulous in her new role!”

The Lewis Center offers courses through Princeton University’s programs in creative writing, dance, theater, music theater and the visual arts, as well as through the interdisciplinary Princeton Atelier founded by Professor Emerita Toni Morrison.  Nearly 2,000 Princeton undergraduates are enrolled in Lewis Center for the Arts courses each year, over one-fourth the undergraduate student body, and the Center presents more than 120 public theater and dance performances, exhibitions, readings, film screenings, concerts, and lectures each year, most of them free.

To learn more about the Lewis Center for the Arts