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Museum Director to Retire in October 2014

Hennessey to Leave Behind Many Significant Accomplishments

NORFOLK, Va. – (September 24, 2013) – Chrysler Museum of Art Director and President William Hennessey announced that he will retire from his position on October 3, 2014. 

Hennessey focused the Museum on a commitment to serving the needs of visitors, adopting a “free to all” admission policy, and introducing the Chrysler’s noted Gallery Host program. Under Hennessey’s leadership, the Museum raised more than $80 million through two capital campaigns, which strengthened the Chrysler’s operating endowment and supported the creation of the hugely successful Glass Studio. 

Hennessey is currently overseeing a major expansion and renovation of the Chrysler that will showcase the Museum’s nationally recognized collection and support new exhibition strategies and educational programming. The expansion will be completed in April 2014.The Board of Trustees, in accordance with the Museum’s strategic plan, has established a search committee to identify Hennessey’s successor. Lewis Webb, vice-chairman of the Chrysler Board of Trustees, will lead the effort.

“For nearly two decades, Bill has provided the inspirational leadership and strategic vision that have built the Chrysler into the nationally renowned museum that it is today,” said Peter Meredith, chairman of the Chrysler Board of Trustees. “We are incredibly fortunate for his many years of service, and we are deeply grateful that he will continue to lead the museum through the completion of its expansion and renovation.”

“It’s been an honor and privilege to work over the past 17 years with the Chrysler Museum’s truly extraordinary staff and board,” said Hennessey. “As the museum prepares to complete the largest renovation and expansion in its history and launch a robust new changing exhibition program, now is a perfect time for the next generation of directorship to begin. I look forward to watching new and exciting things unfold at the Chrysler—and am very proud to have helped ensure the Hampton Roads community is served by an arts institution of truly national caliber.”

Working with his colleagues, Hennessey championed the Museum’s mission of “enriching and transforming lives” through innovative programming and new thinking about what museums can and should be in the 21st century. During his tenure the Museum made significant additions to its collection and presented a dynamic range of special exhibitions that attracted large and diverse audiences. Hennessey also nurtured partnerships with educational, cultural, civic, and business organizations across Hampton Roads. Under Hennessey’s leadership, the Museum’s culture of service, its innovative engagement with visitors, and its programming have become recognized as national models for the field.

About William J. Hennessey
Hennessey became the director of the Chrysler Museum in March 1997. Before moving to Hampton Roads, he was director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, a position he held for eight years. Earlier in his career, he directed the University of Kentucky Art Museum and the Vassar College Art Gallery. Hennessey also taught art history at each of those universities and held curatorial posts at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

Hennessey, who recently turned 66, holds a bachelor of arts degree in art history from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.  He studied management at the Columbia University and University of Michigan schools of business and has held a prestigious Ford Foundation Museum Curatorial Fellowship at the Worcester Art Museum.

Over the past 36 years, he has published numerous exhibition catalogues, essays, articles, and reviews and is a frequent lecturer, speaking most often on issues involving the ways that art, people, and museums interact. In 2012, LEAD Hampton Roads selected Hennessey as the region’s 2012 Visionary Leader. Under Hennessey’s leadership, the Chrysler was one of only six museums chosen for inclusion in Anne Bergeron and Beth Tuttle’s Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement (American Alliance of Museums Press, 2013). Their research highlights American institutions that demonstrate powerful internal alignment and compelling vision to attract the crucial resources for success.

About the Chrysler Museum of Art
The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums, with a nationally recognized collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America, and a new Glass Studio. The core of the Chrysler’s collection was given to the Museum by Walter Chrysler, Jr., an avid art collector who donated thousands of objects from his private collection to the Museum.  In the years since Chrysler’s death in 1988, the Museum has dramatically expanded its collection and extended its ties with the Norfolk community. The Museum now has rapidly growing collections, especially of contemporary glass and 21st-century works. In 2011, the Chrysler opened a state-of-the-art glass studio with a 560-pound capacity glass furnace, full hot shop, a flameworking studio, nine annealing ovens, and a coldworking area. In addition to its main building and Glass Studio, the Chrysler Museum of Art administers two historic houses in downtown Norfolk.

The Chrysler Museum of Art campus is located at One Memorial Place, in Norfolk, Va. While the Museum is closed during construction, the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio and its two historic houses are open. The Glass Studio, at 745 Duke St., Norfolk, is open Wednesday to Sunday with free glass demonstrations at noon. The Willoughby-Baylor House, 601 E. Freemason St., and the Moses Myers House, 323 E. Freemason St., Norfolk are open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. throughout 2013 Admission is free at these venues.


Contact Cindy Mackey
(757) 754-4553

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