The Board of Trustees of the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State College today announced that Dennis Kois will be stepping down as executive director effective March 5, 2021. Kois has accepted the position of executive director of the Yerkes Future Foundation in Wisconsin. Deputy director Scott Propeack has been named interim director.
"Dennis's leadership has transformed and strengthened so many aspects of the Center. Wherever you look-- from our fundraising successes and visionary major projects underway to ensuring our organizational structure, diversity efforts, and outreach to families are top-notch, you can see the impacts of his leadership and positivity,” said Burchfield Penney board chair Shelley Drake, Western New York regional president of M&T Bank. “While we’re truly sorry to see him depart sooner than we'd wished, please join me in thanking him for his leadership and the many changes and positive culture he's put in place--which will benefit the Center for many years to come."
With more than two decades of experience in museums, Kois joined the Burchfield Penney in 2019 from Milwaukee Public Museum, where he served as president and CEO. Prior to that, he was executive director of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Boston and of The Grace Museum in Texas.
"As it has for many of us, the pandemic has re-ordered my plans and upended priorities, and I find myself needing to be closer to my family on an ongoing basis than had been the case before Covid. When approached with the opportunity to lead a new, innovative organization back in Wisconsin, I could not say no," said Kois. In his role at the newly-formed Yerkes Future Foundation, he will be responsible for leading efforts to expand and preserve the historic Yerkes Observatory. Its 124-year-old refracting telescope remains the largest in the world, and its building and 55 acres of Olmsted-designed grounds on Geneva Lake will be expanded, updated, and opened as a public destination under his leadership. Yerkes is still used for active research by astronomers around the globe, building on the work of the science luminaries who have walked its halls, including Edwin Hubble, Nobel Prize-winners Albert Einstein and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Gerard Kuiper and Carl Sagan.
SUNY Buffalo State College president Katherine Conway-Turner said, “The Buffalo State College community would like to thank Dennis Kois for his leadership over the past two years at the Burchfield Penney. During his tenure, Dennis’s fresh perspective ensured the Burchfield Penney remained a beacon and showcase for Western New York’s most brilliant and up-and-coming artists. We wish Dennis well in his new opportunity as he returns to his family in Wisconsin.”
Speaking of the Burchfield Penney, Kois noted, "Among all the museums I've led over the years, the Center is far and away in the best position to continue to thrive, grow and build its impact in the community during a change in leadership,” said Kois. “The staff is full of dedicated professionals, the finances have remained healthy through the pandemic, and the Board is one of the most supportive and engaged I've ever had the good fortune to work with. I'm excited to watch the Burchfield write its next chapter...amplifying the voices of regional artists and embodying its spirit as a place of constant reinvention."