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Dennis Kois (rhymes with voice) began work as the new executive director of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln on June 2. The 38-year-old Milwaukee native has worked as an exhibition, print, and Web designer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian, and most recently he was executive director for a year and a half at the Grace Museum — a combo art, history, and children’s museum in Abilene, Texas. We spoke about his hopes to make DeCordova a major player in sculpture, adapt its New England focus, and change the building to showcase better the work it presents. Which is why fundraising will be a chief concern.

What are your plans?
DeCordova’s got some incredible strengths, obviously, that I think need to be maximized and leveraged in some different ways from what it’s been doing. Particularly the sculpture park is a resource that nobody in the immediate region has something quite like. We need to build more of our identity around sculpture and the sculpture park. I think in some ways it’s one of the few areas in the museum world left where a museum still could take a leadership position. That said, sculpture is hugely expensive, outdoor sculpture in particular — hugely expensive, hugely time-consuming, and labor-intensive to do. So it’s going to require a leveraging of our fundraising, a leveraging and growth of our capabilities and our staff on every level.

One of the things the DeCordova does well is attract a big crowd of art people to its openings.
I agree. I think that raises the question of where we exist in the range of museums as far as supporting and having a relationship to a local community — “local” meaning Boston-area — and regional community, meaning New England. Which is actually written in as part of our mission. Suffice to say it’s clear that that’s a core part of our identity. On the flip side, in some ways I think it’s also been explored on a very limited basis. We haven’t made ourselves a center for art in Boston, or a center for art life in Boston, in a way that we could. Some of it may come down to other types of programming, making connections between local artists and national-level artists. We may also bring in shows that are really interesting relative to what’s happening here — national shows from other institutions, shows that we organize. I think ultimately it needs to become a much more holistic view of how we relate to local and regional arts.

What would you change about the building?
There’s a capital project that we’re going to be reviving. We need to add space for storage. Right now the entire collection is stored off-site, which drives a lot of costs and a lot of issues, and it’s not the best thing for the collection. We need staff space. I’d like to see us tie our galleries together in a much more effective way. I started out as an exhibition designer. So to me the experience in the building is really disconnected and sort of discombobulated.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , New York University, Visual Arts, Cultural Institutions and Parks,  More more >
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