Parsons The New School for Design has been in Paris in one way or another for nearly one hundred years. It was there when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were drinking at sidewalk cafes and fighting in the street. It was there when young magazine writers like François Truffaut decided to stop criticizing cinema and make their own movies, revolutionizing the art form. It was there through countless creative brainstorms, late night parties, and more cigarettes than a right-thinking person today would care to contemplate.
This month, The New School celebrates the opening of the latest incarnation of Parsons Paris, now in the 1st Arrondissement. “Parsons has a long history of engagement in Paris that goes back to 1921, when it was the first American art and design school to establish a campus here,” says Susan Taylor-Leduc, the new dean of Parsons Paris. Parsons Paris was the birthplace of the Parsons table, an icon of Modern design, which came from the studio led by designer Jean-Michel Frank in the 1930s.
Parsons’ new academic center in Paris is an intimate, atelier-like setting near many of the city’s important cultural destinations including the Louvre, the Opéra, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs In its inaugural year, Parsons Paris is welcoming nearly 100 undergraduate students studying Art, Media and Technology; Fashion Design; and Strategic Design and Management. This crop of students is truly global, representing more than 25 countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The school expects to grow to a population of 300 to 500 students, with new programs launching in the coming years, including graduate programs in Design and Technology, Strategic Design and Management, and the History of Decorative Arts and Design starting in Fall 2014.
“Parsons Paris will introduce a new, global model of design education that focuses on the increasingly interdisciplinary role of design in the contemporary world,” according to Taylor-Leduc.
To celebrate its opening, Parsons Paris is mounting an exhibition of work by the award-winning Paris-based contemporary artist and Parsons alumnus Evan Roth. Roth applies what he calls a “hacker philosophy” to an art practice that visualizes transient moments in public spaces, online, and in popular culture. His work is included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Parsons exhibition, Evan Roth: New York to Paris explores his evolution as an artist from his time as a graduate student at Parsons through his establishment of a base in Paris. The exhibition includes prints, video, and sculptures that range from public space interventions to algorithmically generated sculpture. The public is invited to a reception on September 11, held as part of Paris Design Week.
“I think that Parsons’ re-engagement in Paris is good for both the school and for Paris,” says Roth, who has lived in Paris for several years and will have his first major solo show in a Parisian gallery, XPO, this October. “When you’re in Paris it can be easy to forget that there is a world beyond the ‘peripherique,’ and Parsons Paris will be a great connection to an international art and design community. The work that I’m showing is connected to Parsons in a very real and meaningful way. Several of the pieces stem directly to my graduate thesis, and others (like the Eyewriter) involved collaboration with students and faculty I met while I was studying.”
During Paris Fashion Week, Parsons Paris will present an installation of collections from top graduates of Parsons’ world-renowned Fashion Design program. It will include the most recent Designers of the Year, a prestigious Parsons honor that was awarded, among others, to Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler and Marc Jacobs in their graduating years. The exhibition will also include student collections submitted for an annual competition sponsored by the global luxury goods holding company Kering (formerly known as PPR). In the contest, BFA Fashion Design students competed for internships at Kering’s prestigious fashion brands, such as Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Puma, Boucheron, and Balenciaga.
“Parsons Paris marks the beginning of our efforts to create a network of hubs in cities around the world, where students can engage both on site and online throughout the course of their studies and prepare for careers in the creative industries in a global context,” said New School President David Van Zandt recently. “It represents the first step in a new global initiative at The New School, which recognizes that the growing interaction among cultures, markets, and regions of the world has revolutionized the practice of art and design.”
Parsons Mumbai, a partnership with the new Indian School of Innovation and Design, also was launched this fall, and Parsons is exploring activities in other regions of the world, such as Shanghai, where The New School is already involved in student and faculty research and cross-cultural exchanges,