Carnegie Mellon University

Kristen Kovak

Kristen Letts Kovak

Senior Associate Dean for Academics & Assistant Teaching Professor, College of Fine Arts

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Kristen Letts Kovak is the senior associate dean for Academics and assistant teaching professor in the College of Fine Arts. She teaches undergraduate courses on drawing, painting and aesthetic philosophy, including the intra-collegiate seminar, “Passport to the Arts.”

Her artworks investigate connections between visual, perceptual and cognitive patterning. Kovak uses surface articulations to explore the interplay of representation and abstraction – estranging the familiar and naturalizing the non-objective. “The complexity push[es] against the boundary where comprehensible becomes confusion. It remind[s] me of swimming in the ocean, where the destructive power of the water is always present in your mind, even when you feel capable of making it back to shore.”- Eric Lidji

Her works have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the country. Most recently, she has had solo exhibitions at 707 Penn, 709 Penn, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, St. Michael's College, Ohio University, Penn State, Baum School of Art and the Arts Club of Washington. Her paintings and drawings have been featured in group exhibitions, including the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Wildling Art Museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, IUPUI, Muskegon Museum of Art, Museum of the Red River and the Woodson Art Museum.

Kovak’s curatorial projects examine common psychological, aesthetic and theoretical questions underlying seemingly diverse artistic practices. Her recent projects at SPACE gallery (“Cataloguing Pattern,” “Degrees of Separation” and “Identity Play”) share a characteristic interest in balancing opposing forces to arrive at harmonious states of disequilibrium.

Her pedagogical research includes cross-disciplinary thinking, representation, perception and aesthetic philosophy. She was awarded a Wimmer Faculty Fellowship from Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation to study research-based methods in teaching creative risk-taking.