For Immediate Release

Dana Friis-Hansen, GRAM Director and CEO, to Step Away from Leadership Role on January 1, 2023

GRAM Board of Trustees to start search process for his successor

Grand Rapids, MI, December 17, 2021—Dana Friis-Hansen, Grand Rapids Art Museum Director and CEO, today announced his plans to step away from his leadership role at the beginning of 2023, marking over a decade of service at the Museum. Friis-Hansen joined GRAM in July 2011 and will guide the Museum through the upcoming year of transition, departing on January 1, 2023.

Commenting on Friis-Hansen’s leadership, Erin Gravelyn, President of the Board of Trustees said, Dana has led the Grand Rapids Art Museum through an important and rewarding decade of change. His passion for community collaboration, steady financial stewardship, and investment in learning and creativity programs has enabled us to build on the many successes of the Museum, and has set the stage for a bright and exciting future at GRAM.”

Friis-Hansen took the helm of the Museum during a pivotal time in its over 100-year history, just three years after the opening of its new building at 101 Monroe Center. Among many achievements under his leadership, the Museum has presented a series of successful exhibitions, including Robert Rauschenberg: Synapsis Shuffle, Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America, Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, Andy Warhol’s American Icons, Anila Quayyum Agha: Intersections, Mirror Variations: The Art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, and his organization of the traveling exhibition, Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle. As a popular ArtPrize venue, GRAM has hosted Public Vote Grand Prize winners in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and numerous other finalists, welcoming over 100,000 visitors on average during the annual event. He built important national, regional, and local relationships that led to five exhibition presentations from the Whitney Museum of American Art, and co-created programs with ArtPrize, LaughFest, the Grand Rapids Ballet, DisArt, WMCAT, The Henry Ford, and many others.

During his tenure, Friis-Hansen initiated several capital improvements to the Museum’s facilities with a focus on environmental sustainability and financial savings, including a new HVAC system to upgrade efficiency and participation in Consumer Energy’s Zero Net Energy Program. He led the development and execution of the Vision 2021 strategic plan, focusing on critical goals of developing and engaging new audiences, creating exceptional art and learning experiences, and building institutional strength. The Museum’s Michigan Artist Series grew under Friis-Hansen’s stewardship in 2012, and he strengthened GRAM’s acquisitions to the permanent collection with a focus on purchasing artwork by women artists and artists of color — accounting for 69% of all purchases since 2016. New community partnerships and collaborative programs were forged under his leadership, and engagement in learning and creativity programming such as school tours and workshops increased by 45%.

It has been my honor to serve our incredible community and call Grand Rapids home’ over the past decade,” commented Dana Friis-Hansen. It has been a privilege to work with a talented and creative staff, a knowledgeable and committed board of trustees, and a base of generous and kindhearted donors, members and volunteers, all of whom made our accomplishments at the Grand Rapids Art Museum possible. I’m confident to be leaving the Museum in good hands and poised for a successful future.”

Upon his departure, Friis-Hansen plans to return to his passion for independent curating, writing, and research, with a focus on global art exchanges, as well as to lead cultural tours with his husband, Mark Holzbach. He looks forward to staying closely connected as a friend of the Museum and the community. His decade of service and stewardship will be celebrated at GRAM’s tenth annual Live Artfully event honoring Dana Friis-Hansen and Mark Holzbach on September 9, 2022.

The Museum’s board of trustees will immediately begin plans for a national search to find Friis-Hansen’s successor.

Before joining the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Friis-Hansen held positions of executive director and previously chief curator at the Austin Museum of Art (now The Contemporary Austin) in Austin, Texas from 1999 – 2011. Before that, he served as Senior Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, Texas from 1995 – 1999. From 1991 – 1995, he served as associate curator for Nanjo and Associates, a contemporary art advisory office in Tokyo. From 1985- 1991, he worked as assistant curator, then curator of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. Friis- Hansen graduated with his bachelor’s degree in art history from Carleton College in 1983, beginning his curatorial career in New York on a Helena Rubenstein Fellowship to study in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Friis-Hansen is an accomplished writer, and editor with many exhibition catalogues, books, and articles, published internationally.

About the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Connecting people through art, creativity, and design. Established in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the Art Museum is internationally known for its distinguished design and LEED® Gold certified status. Established in 1910 as the Art Association of Grand Rapids, GRAM has grown to include more than 6,400 works of art, including American and European 19th, 20th, and 21st century painting, and sculpture, and design objects, as well as and more than 3,000 works on paper. Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, GRAM has a growing collection in the area of design and modern craft.

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