Alumnus Aidan Rowe named next Chair of the Department of Art & Design

Award-winning academic leader and designer brings a spirit of resilience and adaptability amidst difficult times.

Erik Einsiedel - 7 May 2020

The Faculty of Arts welcomes Aidan Rowe as Chair of the Department of Art & Design, beginning July 1, 2020.

An alumnus of the UAlberta Visual Communication Design program (BFA ‘95), Rowe received his graduate degrees from the University of Westminster (MA ‘01) and University of London (MRes, ‘07). As an Associate Professor, Rowe has been a faculty member of Art & Design since 2007 where he teaches design theory, research and practice to undergraduate and graduate students. He continues the legacy of previous Chair, Cezary Gajewski, with his own vision to create unique, collaborative opportunities between the fine arts and the community, bolstering awareness of how much impact the fine arts have on shaping our world for the better.

“There is growing recognition—in academia and industry—of the power and possibilities that the fine arts offer to build more just, humane and successful worlds,” says Rowe. “I am interested in exploring how we bridge the fine arts across the faculty and beyond.”

Rowe has used his wealth of teaching experience to engage his students in charitable and community-building projects around the world, including the Giving Voice to Hope CD fundraiser for Liberian refugees and Breakdance Project Uganda, on which he collaborated with U of A instructor Leslie Robinson. Rowe’s students have also created designs for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence and helped brand the Global Youth Assembly, communicating important social messages through visual media.

More recent work explores employing design methods and processes in non-design disciplines. He has designed a variety of educational experiences for students in health (medicine, nursing, physio, etc.), exploring collaborations employing studio-based design processes and practices to address identified health issues. A recent exhibition (2019) that Rowe co-curated and co-designed—Dyscorpia—brought together an international interdisciplinary group of artists, writers, musicians, designers and scientists to explore the future of the human body and technology. He also serves as the Co-Editor of the GDC Journal for the Graphic Designers of Canada.

Recognizing he assumes this leadership position during unusually daunting times, Rowe credits his Department’s success in adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic to the resiliency of the UAlberta faculty, staff and students, and plans to leverage their experience to continue providing the best opportunities for their current and future students.

“Obviously, these are unprecedented times and we are forced to react quickly in challenging and changing situations,” he says. “Tellingly, we have been able to react to the quickly shifting situation this semester, and although it was difficult for everyone involved, we were able to finish off the term. Importantly, I think we also learned some lessons on how we teach for the future.”

Rowe was recently recognized for his excellence in teaching when he was awarded the 2020 Design Educators Award for Western Canada from the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD).