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The American Alliance of Museums presents the Chair’s Leadership Award to Director, President and CEO Graham Beal and the Detroit Institute of Arts Board of Directors

Category: Press Release


June 9, 2015

AAM honors Beal and the DIA with special award for leadership excellence

Washington, DC—The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) announces that Director, President and CEO Graham W.J. Beal and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Board of Directors are the first recipients of AAM’s Chair’s Leadership Award. The award is not presented annually; rather, it is reserved for rare occasion of outstanding leadership and extraordinary accomplishments in the museum field.

Kaywin Feldman, chair of the AAM Board of Directors, presented the honor to Beal and the DIA Board during the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) Annual Meeting in Detroit last week.

The Chair’s Leadership Award acknowledges Beal’s 16 years of service as director of the DIA. Retiring this month, Beal’s legacy includes the landmark $185-million renovation and reinstallation of the collection that transformed the museum – boosting attendance and support above and beyond any other point in its 130-year history. Beal and the DIA leadership team completed the capital project while steering the museum through a series of crises, from the financial crash of 2008 to Detroit’s bankruptcy in 2013.

“The award to the DIA is in recognition of the museum’s exceptional work in engaging its public through expansion, experimental installation and resilience during a time of controversy,” said Feldman. “In the wake of the city’s recent financial crisis, Graham and his staff and board worked tirelessly to ensure the long-term sustainability of the DIA, a remarkable community asset. They are truly an inspiration to the entire museum community.”

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“The Board of Directors and I thank AAM for this award from our museum colleagues,” said Beal. “During my tenure at the DIA, our board and staff worked tirelessly during unprecedented challenges to ensure the DIA will continue our mission of helping each visitor find personal meaning in art for generations to come.”


Beal has been the director, president and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts since 1999. Since joining the DIA’s leadership, Beal has overseen two major capital campaigns, guided the reinstallation of the museum’s world-renowned collection and overseen the museum’s renovation and expansion.

Beal has continued to build on the museum’s reputation and has strengthened relationships with some of the world’s most well-regarded institutions through loans and programming supported by the museum’s collection. Under Beal’s leadership the DIA has co-organized exhibitions such as Van Gogh: Face to Face in 2000 and Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence in 2003. Also in 2003, Beal curated the popular exhibition On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the DaimlerChrysler Collection.

Prior to his tenure at the DIA, Beal served as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996 to 1999. He held the position of director of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska from 1989 to 1996 and served as chief curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1984 to 1989. Beal has published many exhibition catalogs, books, and articles including an exhibition catalogue on the DIA’s American paintings.


“Beal’s retirement comes after an extraordinarily stressful 18 months…The museum’s leadership team fiercely defended itself against creditors pushing for a sale of art. Beal also battled Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr before the pensions-and-art rescue plan known as the grand bargain emerged and turned them from adversaries into allies – while also granting the DIA its long-sought independence from city ownership.”

– Detroit Free Press, by Mark Stryker, Jan. 8, 2015


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera’s world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.


The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With nearly 25,000 individual, more than 4,000 institutional and 300 corporate members, the Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit

Follow the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter!


Kristin Guiter
Strategic Communications
(202) 288-5624

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