Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Vice President of the Office of the Arts David Howse to leave Emerson in late November

Photo courtesy of David Howse

After living in Boston for 26 years, David Howse is departing Emerson at the end of November to serve as the president of California College of the Arts in San Francisco, over 3,000 miles across the country. 

“I believe leadership must evolve. I never want to be in a place where I’m complacent,” Howse said. “The idea of moving to a city that is eager to become its best self and to think about the role California College of Arts and I, as its president, can play was incredibly exciting for me.” 

Prior to coming to Emerson in 2015, Howse spent the first part of his career on the operatic stage. After graduating with a Master of Music in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, he performed nationwide through Boston Children’s Chorus as director of operations and programs. Five years later, he served as executive director of the organization. 

“Because I’m a musician by training, I’ve been singing all of my life,” Howse said. “The mission of the course of bringing children or youth together through music to build a more connected community was very much an expression of my lived experience growing up. Seeing an opportunity to use music, or arts in this case, as a tool for social change was exciting and invigorating for me at that time.” 

When he turned 40 years old, Howse sought a “change in [his] comfort zone” after being with Boston Children’s Chorus for 11 years. 

“I was interested in the opportunity to learn and explore more about the theater industry, and certainly had never anticipated working in higher education,” Howse said. “That too was an exciting possibility for me to think about the role arts can play, not only through music, but also through theater in an educational setting like Emerson College.” 

Howse served as senior associate vice president of the Office of the Arts and executive director of ArtsEmerson upon his arrival on campus. Under Emerson’s practice of shared leadership, Howse worked alongside his colleague David Dower, former vice president and artistic director of ArtsEmerson, in both roles. 

As executive director of ArtsEmerson, a unit within the Office of the Arts, Howse partnered with Director of Artistic Programming for ArtsEmerson Ronee Penoi to curate the department’s efforts to serve as a “reflection of what our city and community is looking for.” This past year, ArtsEmerson launched the Black and Indigenous Initiative which brought in seven commissioned artists to collaborate and facilitate conversations in the Boston community that center around Black and Indigenous solidarity. 

“I’m Pueblo and Cherokee and David is a Black man, and the two of us, both formally and informally, had a lot of conversations about if we’re working towards racial justice and changing who feels invited in spaces, such as the venues that Emerson holds,” Penoi said. 

In 2021, Howse became vice president of the Office of the Arts, where he oversaw component units within the department, including ArtsEmerson and HowlRound. The team manages the unit spaces both on campus and in the Boston community, including the UnCommon Stage. Howse oversaw a 50-member team across eight different departments, and he served as a “brand ambassador” for Emerson—forming relationships with community members to expand the office’s outreach.

“I enjoyed meeting and connecting with artists and companies across the world, and bringing them here as a way of helping us see ourselves more deeply and each other across difference,” Howse said.  

Howse worked with the ArtsEmerson team to initiate the Gaining Ground Fund, which launched in 2017. The fund supports artists whose work reflects the African diasporic experience in America, according to Howse. 

“As a relatively new organization … we’ve become an integral part of the cultural ecosystem here in Boston,” Howse said. “As well as nationally and internationally seen as a place where artists want to be, where they want to make work and where they want to make a home.” 

When President Jay Bernhardt joined Emerson this year, he created the special advisor to the president for strategy and the arts position specifically for Howse. 

“The idea was to think about the role arts writ large could play in activating the campus, and [think] about the role arts plays throughout all of the curricular work, as well as the student activities throughout the campus,” Howse said. 

Howse hopes the legacy created by ArtsEmerson founder Rob Orchard and Dower will continue after his departure. He puts trust in Penoi and Associate Vice President of the Office of the Arts Jamie Gahlon to continue building the department.

“Everything I’ve learned, both at Emerson through my many colleagues and in the city of Boston and abroad, will come with me,” Howse said. “Whether I’m fully prepared for what comes ahead will be determined, but I feel confident in the experiences I’ve had at Emerson and the opportunities I’ve had to explore new areas of leadership. All of those things I’ll be taking with me to California.”

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About the Contributor
Bridget Frawley
Bridget Frawley, Staff Writer
Bridget Frawley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Jupiter, Florida. When she is not writing for the news section, she is a morning anchor for Mornings with George Knight of WERS 88.9 FM. She also loves reading, going on long walks, and thrifting.

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