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Danforth Art Welcomes New
Executive Director Debra Petke


Debra Petke

Debra Petke, Executive Director

The Board of Trustees of Danforth Art Museum\School announced on May 20, 2015, that Debra Petke has been appointed as Executive Director. Petke, who most recently served as President and CEO of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT, succeeds Katherine French who retired January 1, 2015. Formally elected in a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on May 19, 2015, Petke was selected after a national search conducted by an internal search committee of Danforth Art trustees and the firm Opportunity Resources, Inc.

Richard Perse, Co-President of the Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of the Search Committee commented, “Debra was a clear choice for the Executive Director position because of her experience in directing institutions that needed to grow to the next level, her energy and enthusiasm for Danforth Art, and its plan to move to the Jonathan Maynard Building.  She has a proven ability to creatively engage diverse populations with unique outreach programs as well as to show strong financial leadership.”

Danforth Art was founded in 1975 as an art museum and studio art school for children and adults to be “a magnet and focus for the region, a multi-purpose fine arts museum, designed to bring understanding and appreciation of the arts to all segments of the population.” Now, 40 years later, Danforth Art serves a broad and diverse community with more than 20 exhibitions of American art from the 18th century to the present day, over 500 quality studio art classes, family and public programs, a thriving membership, and events for artists and art-lovers alike. In her role as Executive Director, Petke aims to reengage the MetroWest community and to secure a bright future for this museum and art education center in its future home at the Jonathan Maynard Building on the historic Framingham Centre Common.

"I am honored to lead Danforth Art at this pivotal moment. This is an institution that began as a grassroots organization by dedicated citizens and for 40 years has provided those citizens, and the whole region, with countless exhibitions, art classes, and programs,” says Petke. “With careful planning, our future move to the Jonathan Maynard building will allow Danforth Art to better showcase our exceptional Permanent Collection, to improve our facilities for our quality studio art classes and education programs offered in museum and school, and to provide better visitor amenities … All in one of Framingham's most beautiful historic buildings! I am excited to work with the Board, staff, faculty, and volunteers to achieve this goal."

Petke served as President and CEO of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT for five years. Prior to that she spent fourteen years at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT where she served as Executive Director after a significant time as Deputy Director and Chief Curator. While there, she instituted a changing exhibition program, oversaw the restoration of the 1874 Mark Twain House with Tiffany interiors, and created a number of nationally-recognized education programs. She was also instrumental in the planning, building, and operations of a new museum center. Petke started her museum career at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT. An art historian specializing in American art, she has taught art history and museum studies at various colleges and universities. She holds an MA in art history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a BA in art history from Providence College.

Mimi Macksoud, Co-President of the Board of Trustees notes, “We are thrilled to have Debra join us at this time and look forward to working closely with her. Danforth Art will be in good hands as it continues to expand on its mission to provide an environment where all are invited to see, learn about, create, and be inspired by art.”

Petke will start her position mid-June; she and her husband Raymond will relocate to the Framingham area.

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