In Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s 71-year history, only nine individuals have served as director. Now, after a 12-month search, the museum’s board has named Hesse McGraw as the tenth person to fill that role.
McGraw comes to CAMH with a nearly 20-year career in contemporary art, holding numerous leadership and curatorial roles — both domestic and international. He will assume his role mid-January 2020.
McGraw will oversee all aspects of the institution’s artistic and educational programs, fundraising, and day-to-day operations, while leading a museum staff that numbers more than 50. McGraw will “bring a new vision that will explore and expand the Museum’s role as a forum and source for audiences to engage with contemporary art,” according to the museum.
McGraw comes to Houston from Kansas City, Missouri, where he has served as partner of design firm, el dorado, inc. Prior to el dorado, McGraw served as vice president for Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), where he commissioned and curated residency-based projects by Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Mariana Castillo Deball, and Katrín Sigurðardóttir, among many others.
One of his noted long-term projects at SFAI includes commissioning Jill Magid’s edgy film, The Proposal, which documents her intense fascination with architect Luis Barragán.
Currently, McGraw is leading curatorial efforts in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota; San Francisco, California; Kansas City, Missouri; and internationally, with artists including Dana Awartani, Dream the Combine, Ann Hamilton, Seitu Jones, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Maha Malluh, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, and Sans façon, among others.
These projects will integrate with CAMH’s strategic efforts to position artists as catalysts for cultural and public realm transformation by directly engaging issues such as water recycling, health and wellness, climate change, and social equity, according to the museum.
“Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a pioneering institution with a remarkable, radical legacy at the leading edge of contemporary art and ideas,” said McGraw, in a statement. “I am thrilled to join CAMH at this pivotal moment in our culture—we need artists now more than ever! I look forward to working with the entire CAMH team, board, public, and artists to directly engage the civic life of Houston and beyond.”