Dennis Kois / President & CEO, Milwaukee Public Museum
Dennis Kois joined the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) as President and CEO in 2014 after spending the prior decade as a director and designer for art museums.
MPM is one of the oldest comprehensive museums of natural and cultural history in the US, holds a vast collection of 4.5 million objects, was where the museum diorama was invented—literally, and is enjoyed by more than 600,000 visitors every year, making it the sixth most-visited natural history museum, per capita, on Earth.
Which raises the question: why? Why, when much of the exhibitry at MPM hasn’t changed in decades? Why, when even ardent fans of MPM describe it over the past twenty years as out of date and unchanging? Why, when in a world of museums that are digital, interactive or both, MPM is neither? And perhaps more importantly, where do you take an institution like that… and how do you change it without ruining it?
Prior to joining MPM Dennis was the Director of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, a contemporary art institution outside Boston. At deCordova Dennis more than quintupled fundraising in five years, created a cutting-edge international program of contemporary art and major sculpture that received international recognition, and led the creation of the first museum-integrated preschool at a contemporary art museum in the U.S.—a project named one of the “five most innovative projects in American museums” by the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. Under his leadership deCordova acquired or commissioned hundreds of artworks, including major outdoor sculptures by Andy Goldsworthy, Dan Graham, Antony Gormley, Jaume Plensa, Rona Pondick, Paul McCarthy and Ursula von Rydingsvard, among others.
Dennis began his career as an exhibition and graphic designer. He was Chief Designer and Head of Publications and Digital Media at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian, and prior to that was the Assistant Chief Designer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was also an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program in Museum Studies at The George Washington University, teaching design and museum ethics.
Dennis has a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in Museum Studies from NYU. He has been involved in numerous professional organizations including the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums.