Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Finlon Led with Vision in 3 Years as President

Denver Art Museum said “see you later” and not goodbye to Cathey McClain Finlon this month at a celebratory breakfast at Palettes honoring her accomplishments as president. Cathey announced her plans to retire from her three-year tenure as president of the museum this spring, and plans to continue her longtime affiliation with the DAM as a member of its Board of Trustees.

Cathey McClain Finlon smiles at her retirement breakfast this month.

As president, Cathey brought her 35 years of business experience leading one of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies to the museum. Her mission was to tighten the DAM’s business operations—attendance, shop sales, fundraising and more—so we could function efficiently with more resources for the fabulous programming the museum is known for, including collections, educational programming and special exhibitions like Yves Saint Laurent, and this fall’s blockbuster, Becoming Van Gogh.

Mission accomplished. Cathey brought her entrepreneurial mind and ceaseless enthusiasm to every issue she touched at the museum with great success. What’s more, in the process of accomplishing the museum’s vision, she encouraged each one of us on staff to think more deeply about our roles here and how we can create a superior experience for our visitors every single day. Cathey takes her role as a staff mentor sincerely—and she’s good at it. As one of the museum staffers who had the opportunity to work closely with Cathey on several key issues, I am grateful for the regular discussions and fresh perspectives. And, there are a handful of suggestions and advice she gave me that I use every day in navigating challenging projects and issues.

Since this announcement, the biggest question we’ve heard is, "Who can possibly replace Cathey?" The answer is: It takes two to fill those shoes. Moving ahead, the museum has created a new structure to address Cathey’s departure as president and her work overseeing the external affairs and business portions of the museum’s operations. Stepping into the financial role, Curtis Woitte has been promoted to the role of deputy director, chief financial officer. Curtis became director of finance for the DAM in 2010 and has been a true leader in developing a long-range financial planning process for the museum. Andrea Fulton, previously the director of communication, now serves as deputy director, chief marketing officer. Serving on the museum staff for more than 11 years, Andrea is kind of like the museum’s secretary of state. Her ability to see the big picture and implement strategies for attendance and promoting programs is unparalleled.

We’re looking forward to this next chapter at the Denver Art Museum! We’ll keep working away on the programs and events you love. See you at the DAM!

Top image: From left, Denver Art Museum Board of Trustees co-chair Fred Hamilton, retiring president Cathey McClain Finlon, director Christoph Heinrich, and board co-chair J. Landis "Lanny" Martin pose for a photo at a retirement breakfast for Cathey this month.

Kristy Bassuener is the associate director of communications at the Denver Art Museum. Kristy has been at the DAM since 2007 and her favorite piece in the DAM is Necessity for Ruins by Don Stinson. She loves walking past the lonely drive-in-movie screen on the plains and picturing what it was like to see a film there when it was a functioning theater.