Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New DeCordova director named

Dennis Kois, the executive director of the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, has been named the new executive director of Lincoln’s DeCordova Museum. He is expected to begin work on June 1, and acting director Nick Capasso will return to his usual role as the museum’s curator.

Kois has lead the Grace – a combo art, history and children’s museum – since November 2006. According to a resume provided by the DeCordova, he was the chief designer and head of publications and digital media at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery from 2001 to 2006; an adjunct professor of museum studies at George Washington University from 2002 to 2007; and design assistant to the chief designer and subsequently assistant chief designer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1997 to 2001. While at the Met, he was the institution’s internal art director for a complete redesign of its website.

The DeCordova announcement mentions: “He completely revamped the Grace Museum’s exhibits program with new museum-organized solo shows of David Bates, Vernon Fisher, James Surls, Margarita Cabrera, and others.” At first glance, this suggests that this hire is a status quo move for the DeCordova art-wise. The artists all have local Texas connections (the DeCordova has a local focus) and produce fairly conventional painting, sculpture or photography. Surls exhibited at the DeCordova in 2006. Perhaps the most challenging of the bunch is Cabrera, who has been making Claes Oldenburg-esque soft sculptures of Humvees.

It will be interesting to see what effect Kois’s exhibition, graphic and web design background may have on the DeCordova. His 1999 NYU master’s thesis – “Disney and Museums: Simulacra, Education, and a Blueprint for Competition” – seems a promising sign. Last May, he organized the Grace’s “first-annual KidzFest, which attracted nearly 6,000 attendees to the museum in a city of only 110,000,” according to the press release. Among the highlights was a performance by Dan Zanes. Can he organize such events and generate such community interest here?

The DeCordova announcement says Kois helped the Grace develop a “collecting strategy while initiating the museum’s first-ever acquisitions program for contemporary art. Kois also led the design and construction of a renovation of the Museum’s children’s education facilities, including the creation of a new 4,500 square-foot green-design education center with classrooms, offices, a resource library, and an Internet-based distance learning studio in previously unused space.”

He is married to Stacey Schmidt, who has done curatorial work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Whitney Museum. They have two children: Olin, 2, and Violet, 1 month.



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