GRAM names COO


Neil Bremer. Courtesy GRAM

A man with more than 30 years of nonprofit and for-profit experience in the art industry is the new chief operating officer at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

The GRAM said last week that it has named D. Neil Bremer to the role.

The transition begins this month, and Bremer will be full time in July.

“He brings with him an impressive record as an arts administrator and consultant,” said Dana Friis-Hansen, director and CEO, GRAM.

Friis-Hansen added that Bremer has “a unique depth in visitor services with major museums” in the U.S. and possesses a range of skills: museum operations, financial administration, facilities management, business development, strategic planning and staff and volunteer engagement.

The search for Bremer was performed by GRAM with the consultation of Timothy J. Chester & Associates.

“GRAM’s vision and strategic plan are on the leading edge of how all arts organizations must re-think themselves for the 21st century,” Bremer said. “This museum’s leadership knows it hasn’t finished its job if they merely hang art on the wall and wait for people to come in the door. GRAM knows that they have a key role to play in the expanding success of Grand Rapids."

Art career

The Michigan native returned to the Mitten in 2010 to become executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, following 30 years in Chicago, where he began his art career at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1981.

“I have enjoyed working with many of the cultural and civic organizations in Kalamazoo, and I look forward to playing a new role with new partners in Grand Rapids,” Bremer said.

Prior to his move to Chicago, he graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in theatre with concentrations in performance and directing and a minor in dance. He also completed arts administration graduate work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

During his time at the Art Institute, GRAM said Bremer began the country’s first visitors services department at a major art museum. He also managed operations for some of the largest special exhibitions to roll through, including “Claude Monet: 1840-1926.”

In 1999, he moved on to become executive director of the Elmhurst Art Museum, a role he held until 2009. At the Elmhurst museum, he led a $10-million effort to restore the McCormick House, expand the museum’s facilities and further its endowment.

Since 1999, he’s also performed consulting work for various clients: the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; Detroit Institute of Arts; Atlanta’s High Museum of Art; Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum; Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago; Milwaukee Art Museum; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

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