BAA’s Arts Dean sees role as ‘bridge’ between campus units

Tyrone Sutton

As classes get back underway at Boston Arts Academy’s Fields Corner campus, students will see a familiar face in a new role. Tyrone Sutton, a longtime faculty member and former chair of the Humanities department, was recently introduced as the school’s new Arts Dean.

A fixture at BAA since 2008 teaching vocal technique, vocal jazz, and music theory, among other subjects, Sutton possesses an intimate knowledge of the school’s missions and values. Now, he says, he will try to act as a “bridge” between students, faculty, and curriculum.

“My scope has increased a lot more,” he explained in an interview with the Reporter. “Now I see a lot of my work is building connections school wide...interviewing people, talking to people, understanding where people are in their program across departments. There are a lot of existing ideas; I’m trying to be the bridge to bring them together and resource those ideas and continue to push our arts curriculum forward.”

Sutton’s appointment comes during a transition period for the school: BAA relocated its campus to Fields Corner last year, where it will remain until construction on its new facilities in the Fenway is completed in 2021. After a year of settling in, Sutton says students and staff are feeling more comfortable in their Dorchester digs.

“It’s starting to feel like a place of home for a lot of faculty and students, and a lot of that is due to the relationships we’ve developed with community partners like the folks at home.stead cafe and VietAID.”

Adjusting to the Charles Street facility, which formerly housed Dorchester Academy and is currently shared by the Community Academy for Arts and Sciences (CASH), was challenging due to infrastructure limitations. It also required BAA personnel to “adjust our programming to fit a space that is not designed for our programming,” as Sutton explained, retrofitting gyms and auditoriums to accommodate makeshift dance studios. 

“We’re moving into a new building in two years, and so with that comes a lot of opportunities for what we can do artistically. There are two deans before me that did a lot of amazing work and so what I’m trying to do is build on the work that they did...what I’m working to do in these next couple years is making sure that we are prepared with the necessary infrastructure to be able to expand what we’re doing artistically in the new space.” 

In the meantime, Sutton will take the lead on expanding the arts curriculum, beginning with a possible addition to the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which currently include a Design & Visual Communication program and a Fashion Technology program. A third potential program could be Multimedia Engineering, in which “a cohort of students would work to manage, market, and develop the production needs of all of our shows at the school and manage those professional spaces that we’re going to have,” said Sutton. 

Such a program would align with BAA’s goal of teaching life skills like problem-solving and critical thinking through art.

“We’re a believer in developing students to be problem-solvers,” explained Sutton. “The arts allow students to think critically about problems in the world and how they can use their art to address those issues through activism.”

In a press release, BAA Headmaster Anne Clark touted Sutton’s ability to thrive in his new role. “I am extremely proud to name Tyrone as our newest arts dean,” she wrote. “He has the right vision, ethic and purpose, as well as my full confidence, to lead both our faculty and students into the next chapter of BAA. As a longstanding member of our faculty, his passion for harnessing our student’s talents and mentoring them to reach their full potential is inspiring.”

An Uphams Corner resident, Sutton is the founder of the award-winning BAA Spirituals Ensemble. He is also the organist at the Charles Street AME Church.