Karen Wirth | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Karen Wirth

Portrait of Karen Wirth


Professor Emeritus
MFA, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
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Karen was the Interim President of MCAD for the 2018-2019 academic year. With the exception of that year, she was the Vice President of Academic Affairs from 2010 to 2020. She has been a professor at MCAD since 2003 when she was hired as the college’s Chair of Fine Arts, and served in that role until 2010. Although Karen has retired from full-time teaching, she continues to teach as an adjunct professor in the Fine Arts Department. Prior to MCAD, she was the Dean and Chair of Fine Arts at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul.

An accomplished artist, Wirth co-designed four of the Minneapolis Blue Line light rail transit stations and served as the artist administrator for the conceptual design phase. She co-designed and co-fabricated the Gail See Staircase at Open Book in Minneapolis.

Wirth is a recipient of both the Bush Leadership Fellowship and the Bush Artist Fellowship, as well as the American Council on Education (ACE) Higher Education Leadership Fellowship. She has also received fellowships and grants from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, NY State Council the Arts, and Minnesota State Arts Board. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including the Smithsonian Institution, Walker Art Center, and through the US State Department. Her artist’s books are held in public collections that include the Museum of Modern Art Library, the Getty Center, and Yale University. A contributor to such publications as the Journal of Artists’ Books, Places, and Bound & Lettered, Wirth is also a founding board member of the College Book Art Association and served on the board of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

She received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Minnesota, and a BFA in art education from the University of Wisconsin. Certified to teach K-12 art, Wirth has taught at every level from preschool to graduate school. Previous teaching experience includes studio teaching at the University of Minnesota, museum education for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and eight years teaching K-12 art in D.C. and San Diego.