Celebrated photographer Nicholas Nixon has retired from his longtime teaching position at Massachusetts College of Art and Design amid “allegations of inappropriate behavior,” according to a message sent out yesterday by David Nelson, the Boston school’s president.
The email sent to current students and staff as well as alumni reads in part: “We recently received allegations of inappropriate behavior concerning photography professor Nicholas Nixon and determined that a Title IX investigation was warranted. Nick subsequently announced his decision to retire, effective March 2, 2018, and he is no longer in the classroom or on campus. The Title IX investigation, which is being conducted by an external consultant engaged by the college, will continue to its conclusion.” (Read the full text at bottom.)
I emailed Nixon last night seeking comment, but haven’t received a response yet.
Nixon’s photography is currently showcased in a four-decade survey of his career, “Nicholas Nixon: Persistence of Vision” (pictured above), scheduled to be on view at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art through April 22. Update March 23 at 7:45 p.m.: “The ICA learned yesterday that MassArt is investigating allegations of inappropriate behavior concerning Nicholas Nixon and that he has retired from his faculty position,” ICA Public Relations Manager Margaux Leonard says via email. “We are truly disheartened by this news and take it very seriously. We do not currently have adequate information to fully understand the scope of these allegations. The ICA is committed to a culture of inquiry, respect and democracy, and once we have more information we will move to act responsibly and responsively.”
Nixon was born in Detroit in 1947 and settled in the Boston area in 1974. He rose to prominence after his photos of Boston cityscapes were featured in the landmark 1975 group exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape” at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. The show defined a new attempt at objectivity in photography—rejecting the romantic photos of apparently pristine landscapes by folks like Ansel Adams and the “decisive moment,” Beat street photography of Robert Frank and others after World War II.
The Brookline photographer is best known for “The Brown Sisters,” his series of portraits of his wife and her four sisters that he’s taken annually since 1975. An introductory sign to Nixon’s current ICA exhibition reads: “Together, these pictures underscore photography’s singular ability to describe the passage of time as an incremental sequence of isolated moments, and serve as a testament to Nixon’s extraordinary persistence of vision.”
Nixon landed his first solo exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1976 and has continued to be featured regularly in museums, including exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2005, at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in 2010, and at the Museum of Modern Art in 2006 and 2014.
Full Text Of MassArt’s March 22, 2018, Email To Alumni About Nicholas Nixon:
Subject: [MassArt] Title IX/Campus Climate Update
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT ALUMNI RELATIONS
I’m writing to share a message from President Nelson to the MassArt community about our commitment to a healthy campus climate.
As a member of our alumni community, we value your loyalty and commitment to the unique culture of MassArt.
If you or a fellow alum has had an experience that we need to know about to improve our campus culture, please send us your feedback here. We’re listening.
Director of Alumni Communications
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
621 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA. 02115
617 879 7050
Message from President David Nelson
Dear MassArt Community,
As the Me Too and Time’s Up movements persist in reshaping our society, I am heartened to see so many brave acts of personal and collective determination. I write today to reaffirm the MassArt community values that I have stated previously. Ensuring a safe and healthy campus climate has been my priority since I became MassArt’s president in June 2016. We take reports of any form of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, or misconduct seriously.
[Note: The final sentence of the first paragraph reads slightly differently in a version of the email circulated among current students and staff: “We take reports of any form of sexual harassment or any other discriminatory behavior that violates our Equal Opportunity policies very seriously.”]
We recently received allegations of inappropriate behavior concerning photography professor Nicholas Nixon and determined that a Title IX investigation was warranted. Nick subsequently announced his decision to retire, effective March 2, 2018, and he is no longer in the classroom or on campus. The Title IX investigation, which is being conducted by an external consultant engaged by the college, will continue to its conclusion.
Looking at the bigger picture, in order to ensure the safety of our entire campus, we are further assessing our campus climate in regard to Title IX and equal employment opportunity policies. To that end, we are reaching out to you – our students, faculty, staff, and alumni – so we can hear every voice, we can work to address concerns, and together we can ensure a culture where each member of our creative community can thrive.
If you have experienced sexually inappropriate behavior at MassArt, or if you know of someone who has, please report it to us. There are several MassArt staff members who are here to help. We will listen, we will take you seriously, we will investigate, and we will take appropriate action to address concerns and to maintain a healthy living and learning environment at MassArt. To report an incident, simply go to massart.edu/help for contact information, report forms, and other helpful resources.
I also want to state again our commitment to helping change the culture of the professions in which our students and alumni work. For too long, we have heard that “it’s just the way it is” with respect to sexual harassment and sexual violence. I reject that notion, and I know you do too. We can effect change by empowering students who challenge that idea and by preparing leaders who are committed to a better future for the art and design world.
At the heart of the MassArt mission is our commitment to preparing students to “engage in the well being of their society.” Working together, we can address these issues in the right way and make the world more like the place we all want to live.
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