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"Grandfather of the Arts" bids farewell, encourages field to "be curious"

David Fraher prepares to deliver his last Arts Midwest Conference address after 36 years of leadership.
David Fraher prepares to deliver his last Arts Midwest Conference address after 36 years of leadership. Photo by Terry Gilliam.

After more than 30 years of leadership, David Fraher steps down as President & CEO of Arts Midwest.


David Fraher gives his farewell speech at the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference.
David Fraher. Photo by Terry Gilliam.

He’s outlasted nine National Endowment for the Arts chairpersons, stewarded scores of national and international programs, and been the heart of Arts Midwest and the Conference for over three decades. And today David Fraher said goodbye.

Chairperson for the National Endowment for the Arts Mary Anne Carter called David the “Grandfather of the Arts,” pointing to his innovative thinking and leadership in establishing the role of the nation’s six regional arts organizations. She thanked him for his guidance, and for his friendship. Former Chairperson Jane Chu also addressed the nearly 1,000 person audience via video, thanking David for the great care and involvement he had shown in nurturing artistic and cultural landscapes both at home and abroad. David’s deep commitment to regional, national, and international arts programming earned him National Endowment for the Arts Chairman’s Medal in 2008.

But there was hardly a dry eye in the room as David took the podium to address what he called his Arts Midwest family. On reflecting on his long and accomplished career David stressed the values of creativity, community, and curiosity in his work and his life. David reminded the audience of the role our community plays in sharing the creativity of the human spirit, as well as the deep meaning our work has in the lives of those around us.

David shared reflections on his signature call to always “be curious” and a reminder that curiosity demands being open to the unexpected, that it encourages making connection between disparate ideas and concepts, and is built upon a willingness to ask questions, listen deeply to people who think and feel differently from yourself, and to try new things.

David has assumed the role of Arts Midwest President Emeritus and plans to continue to support Arts Midwest and the new president and CEO, Torrie Allen.

My hope for you, my blessing, is that you be granted and grant yourself the space and freedom to lead a life of curiosity. And I hope you will share what you discover with all of us.

David Fraher

Continuing to Innovate

To honor David’s legacy of curiosity, the Arts Midwest Board has established the David Fraher Fund for Innovation to support the curiosity and creativity of the next wave of arts professionals.

Innovation Fund

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