The Mary Renault Society

The Triangle Area of North Carolina

Keeping Cultural Institutions Relevant

Larry WheelerIn his presentation to us, Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler will explore the diversification of cultural experiences through programming and audience development, using the North Carolina Museum of Art as a focus.  As his background shows, he is uniquely qualified to share this message.

Dr. Wheeler grew up in Lakeland FL and got undergraduate degrees in history and French at Pfeiffer University (then Pfeiffer College) here in NC.  He went on to get both an MA and a Ph.D. in European History from the University of Georgia.

After serving eight years as Deputy Secretary of Cultural Resources under Governor Jim Hunt from 1977-84, Wheeler was appointed Director of Development at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The N&O says that, from 1985 to 1994, Cleveland was his crash course in the art world.  In addition, he met his longtime partner, interior designer Don Doskey, shortly after he became development director.

He became the Director of the NC Museum of Art in 1994.  Since then the Museum has become one of the leading art museums in the South. Not only did Dr. Wheeler solidify the museum’s “once shaky” standing, he has worked passionately both to develop the Museum’s collection and to enrich its program of major exhibitions.  He substantially increased he collection of modern and contemporary art and, in addition to the record-breaking attendance at the Rodin sculpture exhibition, he secured for the Museum a gift of 29 Rodin sculptures, the largest collection of Rodin works in the South. The ‘Rembrandt in America’ and ‘Monet in Normandy’ exhibits brought in hundreds of thousands of people. The staff has doubled, the budget has tripled. The awards he’s gotten for his efforts have been numerous. And the Museum’s facilities have increased by over 70% - Dr. Wheeler’s vision of a spacious, light-filled building became the new building of the Museum. Upon completion of the building in spring 2010, he observed “the new West Building designed by Thomas Phifer is without question the great hallmark of my directorship,”


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