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Dennis Kois Appointed as Burchfield Penney Executive Director

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Burchfield Penney Art Center and SUNY Buffalo State are pleased to announce the appointment of Dennis Kois as executive director of the Burchfield Penney. A proven leader with more than two decades of experience in museums, Kois comes to the Burchfield Penney from the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he served as President and CEO. Before joining the Milwaukee Public Museum, he served as Executive Director of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Boston and of The Grace Museum in Texas.

“The role that art and culture has played in the resurgence of Buffalo cannot be overstated. The city has a spirit of collaboration, community pride and determination,” Kois noted. “Buffalo has always been part of my family’s story. My father was born in the city and lived on Lilac Street in South Buffalo, and my grandfather managed the Telenews Theatre, which was located on Main Street downtown. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Buffalo’s future.”

Kois began his museum career as Assistant Chief Designer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and Chief Designer and Head of Digital Media and Publications for The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. A native of Wisconsin, Kois graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and earned an MA in Museum Studies from New York University.

“Buffalo State College is delighted to welcome Dennis Kois as the new Executive Director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Dennis brings with him an exceptional record of visionary and transformational leadership, fundraising, and community engagement—experience that will serve the Burchfield Penney well as it continues to support Buffalo State’s mission as SUNY’s Urban-Engaged Campus,” said Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, president of Buffalo State.

“Dennis understands and embraces the culture of our region. He understands who we are, where we have been and where we want to be and is excited to be part of the process. He brings leadership and strategic management from some of our country’s most prestigious museums and is excited to join us as a champion for Buffalo and our Western New York arts community,” said Gina O’Neill, chair of the Burchfield Penney Board of Trustees. “Thank you to interim directors Carolyn Morris-Hunt and Scott Propeack for their work leading the Burchfield Penney during this transition.”

“For more than 50 years, the Burchfield Penney has served contemporary artists and shared and interpreted its world class collection of artist Charles Burchfield’s work. I’m grateful to Buffalo State and Burchfield Penney leadership for placing their trust in me to lead the Art Center into its next chapter,” said Kois of his appointment. “Art centers like the Burchfield Penney are uniquely positioned to give voice to the arts and culture of diverse communities, and to provide a platform for us all to see the world around us with fresh eyes.”

Kaywin Feldman, who was recently appointed as the first female Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. said “Dennis is a visionary leader, who brings a depth of knowledge and expertise to his role. At all the institutions he's run, Dennis has been at the forefront in engaging the community with dynamic, relevant programming. He'll be a great addition to the rich cultural community of Buffalo."

“Dennis is an experienced arts leader with a history of elevating the programs and collections of regional museums and, in the process, of launching those institutions on a national stage. Given his track record working with local and regional artists, I'm confident that Dennis will bring newfound attention to the great talent in Buffalo and Western New York." Elizabeth Dunbar, Director, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse.

"Dennis is a dynamic leader who brought an extraordinary vision to carry the (Milwaukee) museum forward. Buffalo’s gain is Milwaukee’s loss,” added Mary Read, Milwaukee philanthropist and major donor to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Another Milwaukee Public Museum Trustee, Patricia Yunk, added “Dennis is a warm and wonderful museum director who took MPM to new heights. We wish him the best in Buffalo."

Kois’s appointment is the result of a national search led by the firm Korn Ferry. He will begin his tenure on April 22, 2019.

About the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State
Founded in 1966 on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is dedicated to the art and vision of renowned American watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) and the distinguished artists of Western New York. In 2008, the Burchfield Penney expanded from its location in Rockwell Hall to a new $36 million freestanding facility in the heart of Buffalo’s Museum District. Designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, the museum includes more than 84,000 square feet dedicated primarily to galleries, as well as education and program space. It is home to the world’s largest collection of artwork and ephemera by Burchfield, totaling more than 25,000 objects, and a collection of more than 8,000 works by over 850 artists. The Burchfield Penney was the first LEED certified art museum in New York State and was featured by travel editors of the New York Times as one of the “44 Places to Go in 2009.” For more information go to

About SUNY Buffalo State:
Buffalo State—the largest comprehensive college in the State University of New York (SUNY) system—provides more than 9,000 students each year with diverse and transformational opportunities to believe in themselves, be inspired with knowledge, and achieve their goals. Buffalo State is ranked in the top-100 nationally by CollegeNET’s Social Mobility Index (SMI), which measures how effectively institutions enroll economically-disadvantaged students and graduate them into well-paying jobs. The college offers a distinctive urban-engaged curriculum across more than 75 undergraduate majors and 60 graduate programs in the arts, education, sciences, and professional studies. Since 1871, Buffalo State has played a leading role in the resurgence of New York State’s second-largest city, generating more than $680 million in total economic impact each year as an anchor institution for the City of Buffalo.