New Leadership at Art Academy of Cincinnati

Joe Girandola


As a boy in Baltimore, Joe Girandola learned about form and function by disassembling toasters, washing machines and dishwashers, marveling at the materials and the way they worked together and then reassembling these objects. His parents sanctioned that precarious practice, insisting only that he journal each step in the process to document his understanding and create guidance for that all-important reassembly finale.

“To write the steps down became an instrumental part of my artistic practice. I realize how closely design and fine art were intertwined,” Girandola says.

On August 1, Girandola assumed the role of president of the Art Academy of Cincinnati, as that institution celebrates its founding in 1869 – 150 years ago. His proclivity for taking things apart and putting them back together is timely since the Art Academy recently launched major strategic initiatives to transform its campus, increase its enrollment, and boost its commitment to the city and community.

To his new position, Girandola brings not only rapport as a practicing artist but also his experience as a seasoned higher education administrator. Until recently he served as associate dean of graduate studies and research at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). He has also served as director of graduate studies for the School of Art at DAAP, and as MFA program director at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Discussing his plans, Girandola says, “My vision for the Art Academy’s next chapter is to become an open door for problem solving in the city through the creative practice. Building upon its amazing history, the Art Academy will look to collaborate with all the game-changing innovative entities in the region to provide students with the best possible skills needed to survive in the global creative economy.”

When Girandola speaks about the Art Academy and its mission, it’s clear he considers its location – in the heart of Cincinnati’s OTR – a major asset. The Art Academy’s 200 undergraduate and graduate students are the core of the best small, private art college in the country, but the professional faculty of the Art Academy provide services to 8,000 people a year throughout the community, from kindergarten to seniors. “The Art Academy building is active almost 24 hours a day,” he says.

That busy campus is the focus for one of Girandola’s early initiatives – activation of the Barrel House, an underused 5,000-square-foot. ft space on the ground floor. He will start a fund-raising campaign to transform the Barrel House into a multi-use platform for the city. It will be a space for teaching, display and workshops conducted by pivotal players within the city. It will also serve as a showcase for the communities’ businesses and corporations. Girandola is looking forward to reaching out to Cincinnati sources, acting as a megaphone to create an empire of communication and collaboration. He hopes to build relationships and talk to people individually, promoting the Art Academy as a resource for all the city.

Girandola also will campaign to attract a broad array of students to the Academy, recruiting internationally to create an environment that is diverse and inclusive. That student body, he foresees, will be out and active in the community, meeting and working with the people of Cincinnati. His desire is to help students become holistic, empathetic, honest practitioners in creative problem solving through art and design. Also planned – giving Art Academy students opportunities to study abroad, enriching their creative experience and letting the world know about this special Cincinnati institution.


The Art Academy of Cincinnati is located at 1212 Jackson St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information call 513.562.6262 or visit