The University of Chicago News Office
Dec. 19, 2006 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Smart Museum announces new chairman Robert Feitler to succeed Richard Gray

Robert Feitler, who was instrumental in establishing the Smart Museum of Art, has been appointed chairman of its Board of Governors by Richard Saller, Provost of the University of Chicago. Feitler has been a member of the Board of Governors since the Museum’s founding in 1974 and succeeds outgoing chairman Richard Gray, who has served for the last 15 years and guided the museum through a period of great growth and increased recognition. Gray has been named chairman emeritus.

“This is an exciting time at the Smart, and everyone has a glow,” said Feitler. “Richard has been an inspiring leader, who has certainly shown a real understanding of the place and done a wonderful job. The museum has an extraordinary array of exhibitions planned over the next several years, and we are ambitious about increasing the level of support for all of our activities so that we may expand them and create new programs in the tradition of innovation and excellence for which the Smart is so widely known.”

Gray, an eminent art dealer, collector, and civic leader, has been devoted to bringing the arts to a wider audience. In 1963, he founded the Richard Gray Gallery, which has become one of the leading dealers in modern and contemporary American and European art. Gray is a past president of the Art Dealers Association of America, and he serves on the boards of numerous cultural institutions, including as life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, life trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, trustee and former vice chair of WTTW Channel 11 and WFMT Radio, and vice chairman director emeritus of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

“After fifteen years, I leave this chair with very mixed feelings, but confident that the Museum is poised for even greater success,” said Gray. “Bob has been very instrumental in securing the economic soundness of the museum since its founding. No one could be more devoted to the Museum’s mission and future ambitions.”

During Gray’s tenure as chairman of the Smart Museum’s Board of Governors, the Museum saw remarkable development. Attendance tripled to last year’s 63,000, museum membership rose, and the quality and scope of the Museum’s exhibitions and publications expanded. The endowment for collection acquisitions grew, and the Museum has received a number of important gifts, including Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculpture, late 19th- and 20th- century sculpture and drawings, furniture by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a major collection of works by H.C. Westermann. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in 1992 the Museum launched a university faculty-curated exhibitions program, an important resource that significantly enhances the special exhibitions program and benefits both the university and the public community. The Museum renovated to improve the gallery space in 1999 and named the Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery, which has presented many of the Museum’s landmark exhibitions. In 2004, the Smart Museum helped organize the exhibition Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, which raised the profile of the Museum to an unprecedented new level.

Feitler, who will start as chairman effective January 1, 2007, has had a seven-decade relationship with the University going back to grade school at the University’s Laboratory School. In 1991, he joined the University’s Board of Trustees, and he is now a Life Trustee. He co-chaired the committee that developed the most recent campus master plan, and in 2004, he received the University’s Alumni Service Medal. Feitler also serves as a Trustee of the University of Chicago Medical Center and as a Life Member of the University of Chicago Visual Arts Visiting Committee. In the Milwaukee area, Feitler has been the past president of the Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees and a trustee at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. He is the current chair of the Smart Family Foundation and is the retired president of Weyco Group, Inc.
Last modified at 01:51 PM CST on Tuesday, December 19, 2006.

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