Mission and Purpose

AICAD – the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design – is a non-profit consortium of 42 leading art schools in the US and Canada. It was founded in 1991 by a group of 25 presidents who felt a need for the similarly structured art schools to come together so as to mutually develop their schools and programs. Our mission is to help strengthen the member colleges individually and collectively, and to inform the public about these colleges and the value of studying art and design.
AICAD colleges educate more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year, plus many thousands more in summer and continuing education programs. Our students are drawn from all 50 US states and more than 60 foreign countries. Over 70% of these students receive financial aid to support their education.


Membership in AICAD is open to colleges in the US and Canada that are: private, nonprofit, free-standing (that is, not a department of a larger college or university), specialized colleges of art and design, BFA and/or MFA degree granting, and accredited by NASAD (the National Association of Schools of Art & Design) and the appropriate regional accrediting agency (New EnglandMiddle StatesNorth CentralNorthwestSouthern, and Western).

We also have International Affiliates which must meet the equivalent criteria in their home countries.

Programs and Activities

AICAD achieves its mission of strengthening and connecting its member schools through a variety of programs and activities, including:

  • distributing information about AICAD and its members, and about art and design education and careers, to students, parents, teachers, and others;
  • conducting regular conferences and symposia on contemporary academic and administrative subjects;
  • operating an independent studio and internship program in New York City (New York Studio Residency Program);
  • overseeing student exchanges and mobility among the member schools and international affiliates;
  • gathering and analyzing substantial institutional data annually, accompanied by analysis and forecasts to assist in future planning efforts;
  • providing members with information about current art and design education issues, and about relevant legislation and government policies;
  • working with other educational and cultural groups on various policy issues and mutually beneficial programs; and,
  • maintaining a communication and information exchange system for senior staff and faculty of the member schools, including frequent meetings to discuss timely issues.


Responsibility for the general direction of AICAD is vested in its Board of Directors, which consists of the president/CEO of each of the 43 member institutions. Financial and administrative oversight are provided by an eleven member Executive Committee. Daily management and services are provided by the Executive Director.

Executive Committee

Walter Massey Chair
Walter Massey (President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Tom Manley Vice Chair
Denise Mullen (President, Oregon College of Art and Craft)
Lorne Buchman Treasurer/Chair, Data & Research Committee
Lorne Buchman (President, Art Center College of Design)
Ron Burnett Secretary
Ron Burnett (President, Emily Carr University of Art and Design)
Nancy Uscher Chair, Professional Development Committee
Nancy Uscher (President, Cornish College of the Arts)
Larry Thompson Chair, Enrollment Committee
Larry Thompson (President, Ringling College of Art and Design)
Charles Desmarais Chair, Thought Leadership Committee
Charles Desmarais (President, San Francisco Art Institute)
Jay Coogan Chair, NYSRP Oversight Committee
Jay Coogan (President, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
TomasManley Chair, Strategic Ventures Committee
Thomas Manley (President, Pacific Northwest College)
StephenBeal Chair, Connectivity Committee
Stephen Beal (President, California College of the Arts)


Executive Director Deb Obalil Executive Director
Deborah Obalil has over fifteen years experience as a leader in the national arts and culture industry, having led multiple highly acclaimed organizations and served as a well regarded management consultant to the field. She was appointed the Executive Director of AICAD in June 2012. As Executive Director she leads the organization in achieving its mission of strengthening and connecting its members schools, thus advancing art and design education.

Prior to her appointment with AICAD, Deborah operated a successful boutique arts management consulting firm, Obalil & Associates, for four years. The firm provided consultation and facilitation in strategic planning, marketing research and planning, and board development for non-profit arts organizations, independent artists of all disciplines, and creative for-profit ventures.

Deborah’s career within arts organizations placed her most recently as the Executive Director of the Alliance of Artists Communities, an organization dedicated to the advancement of America’s creative vitality through supporting the field of artists’ communities, based in Providence, RI. The Alliance acts as the collective voice of the field while providing a variety of advocacy services and educational programs. During her six-year tenure as Executive Director, the Alliance’s membership grew by more than 20%, the annual budget tripled, and new relationships developed with the Ford Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Joyce Foundation directed more than $2 million of re-granting funds through the Alliance. She also served on the board of directors of Res Artis, the international association for artist residency programs.

Deborah received a Bachelor of Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University in History and Dance, and a certificate from the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders – Arts at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Joanne Kersh Assistant Director of Research
Joanne Kersh joined AICAD in June 2013 as Assistant Director of Research Services. Joanne has a PhD in developmental psychology from Boston College, a Master’s degree in educational research from Northeastern University, and a Bachelor’s degree from New York University. She has fifteen years of experience conducting research, managing data, and working in higher education settings. Prior to joining AICAD, she was a senior research associate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she worked closely with public schools and educational non-profit agencies.
Lee Ann Adams Program & Operations Manager
Lee Ann Adams Joined AICAD as Administrative Coordinator in September 2012 and became Program & Operations Manager in July 2013. Prior to joining the AICAD team, she was an Admission’s Officer at the Rhode Island School of Design for four years. Lee Ann has also worked as an Administrator in the American Paintings Department at Christie’s Auction House in New York City and as Assistant to the Director at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. Lee Ann graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration in 2003.


236 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906
P: 401-270-5991
F: 401-270-5993

Executive Director:
Deborah Obalil

Assistant Director of Research:
Joanne Kersh

Program & Operations Manager:
Lee Ann Adams