After ten remarkable and exceedingly successful years as Director of BSA, Dr. Christopher Ford has announced he will retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Ford formulated his retirement plan several years ago, which has allowed the Baltimore School for the Arts Board of Trustees and administration to carefully and thoughtfully prepare for his departure.
Regarding his impact on BSA, Patricia Joseph, BSA founder and lead donor, said it best when Chris’ appointment was announced in 2011. She said, “We found the best candidate in the country”. Members of the BSA community have been the grateful recipients of Chris Ford’s unparalleled leadership and unwavering commitment to the school for nearly a decade. He will be deeply missed.
Chris began his career at BSA in 1981 as a saxophone instructor. He then served as the Instrumental Music Coordinator, and in 1990, Chris was appointed as Head of the Music Department. His credentials are wide-ranging and impressive: Bachelor of Music from the University of Texas; Master of Music from Bowling Green State University; Premier Prix, Medaille d’Or from the Conservatoire National de Bordeaux; Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to France; and Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Maryland.
While Director of BSA, Chris’ ten years of accomplishments include, but are not limited to, the following:
Recruiting all five current arts department heads. Hirings included Music Head, Dr. Mellasenah Morris Edwards ‘85, Visual Arts Head, Archie Veale ‘85, Theatre Head, Rosiland Cauthen, Dance Head, Laura Halm ‘99, and Film and Visual Storytelling Head, Beatriz Bufrahi. Chris also built a new, highly effective academic leadership team with Assistant Principals Mary Evans and Thomas Askey, along with many other talented and dedicated arts and academic faculty members.
Developing BSA’s five-year Strategic Plan for the High School and TWIGS 2015-2020.
After 35 years of success, Chris and his leadership team acknowledged that the world of artistic education was constantly evolving. To determine how to best meet the changing needs of students, and recognizing that several key arts faculty members would soon retire, members of the Strategic Planning Team engaged educational and artistic leaders around the country in thoughtful discussions on how to best prepare students to be successful participants in the next creative workforce. Since its completion, the comprehensive strategic plan has helped to guide 1) new and more relevant instruction in both arts and academics, 2) positive additions to the faculty and staff and 3) new and compelling pathways for artists and art forms.
Broadening the Reach of TWIGS at BSA.TWIGS has always been free for all participants. But free of cost does not always translate into accessibility. The transportation barriers surrounding access to our afterschool program were a challenge Chris was eager to tackle. Chris worked closely with the TWIGS leadership team to develop HelloTWIGS!, an artreach program which partnered with four schools historically underrepresented in the programs at BSA to provide free transportation, an art exposure class and a meal for an average of 75 students for the past four years. Through this program and others, TWIGS and BSA have deepened our engagement with communities not traditionally served by the school.
Instituting an Interdisciplinary Work Model to include all five arts disciplines and the academic departments.
Beginning with the Appalachian Spring Festival in 2013, Chris created a unique educational platform for school-wide collaborations. He recognized that artists are stronger and more powerful when they combine their skills and bring insights from other disciplines. The first week-long collaborative festival was built around the iconic ballet Appalachian Spring by Martha Graham, Aaron Copeland and Isamu Noguchi and brought together all of the school’s artistic disciplines. The festival was designed to engage, educate and entertain audiences of all ages. The brilliant Russian Serenade was the school’s next school-wide festival in 2014 featuring a yearlong study of Russian and American societies and culture. BSA then hosted perhaps the most noteworthy of collaborations with the extraordinary Imagined Worlds in 2015. Imagined Worlds was a groundbreaking multi-discipline production led by BSA alums, Nadia Sirota, Music ‘00 and Katherine Fisher, Dance ‘97 featuring an original score by MacArthur Genius Marcos Balter. BSA’s musicians and dancers were showcased through an extraordinary multi-media performance inspired by the work of Italian architect, Luigi Serafini’s Encyclopedia of an Imaginary World, Codex Seraphinianus. In 2017, BSA turned our focus to the art, music, literature and film created by African artists and artists of African descent. Our work culminated in a week-long festival, AfricaNow, which featured lectures, films, live performance and gallery exhibitions. And most recently, Carnaval de la Cultura Hispana, presented in March 2019. BSA undertook a yearlong academic and artistic study of the Latinx community to help our students become more empathetic members of our school, city, and world.
Establishing the new Film and Visual Storytelling Department. Launched in 2017, Chris created the Charles C. Baum Film and Visual Storytelling Department, Lead Donors Mark and Patricia Joseph, with two important purposes in mind: to foster the talents and aspirations of young filmmakers and storytellers and to serve as an incubator for innovative, school-wide collaborations. Throughout their four years at BSA, every young storyteller will be given a platform from which they will create stories about their lives, their city, and their world. Next fall the film department will be in its fourth year serving a total of 60 aspiring filmmakers.
Establishing the Center for Collaborative Arts and Technology
Under Chris’ leadership, the school began to shift its focus and understand that 21st century careers tend to be interdisciplinary, collaborative, and cemented in digital technologies. BSA’s Center for Collaborative Arts and Technology (CCAT) was created in 2014 with the idea of helping our students develop the vital skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century by providing a professional digital facility focused at the intersection of art, technology, and collaboration.
Increasing the BSA’s Endowment Funding
Working side-by-side with BSA board leadership, Chris has played a pivotal role in significantly increasing the school’s endowment. BSA Founders and principal donors, Mark and Patricia Joseph, provided the lead funding for both The Fund for the Future and The Charles C. Baum Film Endowment. Over the past ten years, Dr. Ford has worked closely with the Josephs and key endowment campaign leadership, to help ensure the long-term security of BSA through this critical source of funding.
Dr. Ford’s tenure will come to a close in June, 2021. Until that time, Chris will continue to lead the BSA community with the same dedication and commitment to his faculty and students as we have seen throughout his ten years leading the BSA.
Succession planning has been under way for several months and the Board of Trustees will begin the search, along with community stakeholders, for new leadership in the Fall of 2020.