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©2017 by Bremer Strategies: Navigating Nonprofit Success

 

Background

Expert Guidance

D. Neil Bremer has been a nonprofit management consultant since 1990, advising organizations such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on concept development, marketing, visitor systems, management structures, and architectural planning. Neil is nationally known as an expert in helping museums improve their ability to make connections with their audiences.

Neil has more than thirty-eight years of nonprofit and for-profit arts experience. As the former Chief Operating Officer for Grand Rapids Art Museum, Bremer would oversee a $5.8 million annual budget and all operational areas of the organization. GRAM was the world’s first Gold LEED museum and located in the center of Michigan’s second largest city.

Neil moved back to Michigan in 2010 to accept the position of Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, where he led an organization with programs including grants to artists and nonprofits, the KalamazooArts community calendar, and many productions provided free for the public including the popular Art Hop 12 times a year. In addition to his duties at the Arts Council, he was also on the board of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated, Chair of the Kalamazoo County Public Art Commission, and a Community Assistant Professor for WMU's Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine where he used the Arts to teach young medical students. In 2015, he completed the concept and design for the new Mary Burdick Thorne lobby introducing a new performance space at the Epic Center and also conceived and launched Art Hops, a seasonal beer crafted by Tim Surprise and Arcadia Ales with a portion of the proceeds from sales going to support Arts Council programs.

Before returning to Kalamazoo, Neil was the Executive Director of the Elmhurst Art Museum, leading its bold growth from a small local art center to one lauded by ArtNet critic Victor Cassidy as "one of the best places to see contemporary art in the Chicago area."  During his tenure, he tripled the annual operating budget, secured new grants, increased earned revenues from programs and arts classes, and received state-wide recognition for the museum's contributions to the community, including special recognition from the Illinois Association of Arts Educators for outstanding contributions to art education. The museum hosted one of the Chicago area's top special exhibitions of 2004, The Zhou Brothers: 30 Years of Collaboration.

While at Elmhurst Art Museum, D. Neil Bremer was a visiting professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, teaching a graduate-level course in Nonprofit Administration for the university's Museum Studies program.

Neil’s museum career began in 1981 at The Art Institute of Chicago, where over fifteen years and a series of promotions, he began the country's first Visitor Services department (visitorservices.com) at a major art museum focused on the visitor experience and improving accessibility for audiences. At the Art Institute, Bremer managed operations for some of the country's largest special exhibitions, including Claude Monet: 1840-1926, the most complete retrospective of the artist's work in the world and only displayed in Chicago.

His experience in the arts goes well beyond the visual arts and includes music and theatre performance, direction and production. He has continued performing and directing over much of his 35 years in nonprofits. For 15 years, while his career advanced at the Art Institute of Chicago, Neil regularly performed in three different comedy dinner theatres in Chicago.

Neil received his B.S. in Communications, Cum Laude, from Western Michigan University along with a major in Theatre and completed graduate work at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago's Master of Arts program in Arts Administration.