Dennis Scholl, JD ’81, Named President and Chief Executive of ArtCenter/South Florida


Dennis Scholl, J.D. `81, was recently named as the president and chief executive of ArtCenter/South Florida, the nonprofit supporting artists and advancing the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts in South Florida.

Scholl, who never wants for a new challenge, is the former vice president for arts at Knight Foundation, where he oversaw close to $200 million in grants across the country in his six years there. He is also a documentary filmmaker, lawyer, CPA, world-renowned art collector, and winemaker.

He saw a once in a lifetime opportunity in the ArtCenter, which recently sold its Miami Beach building for $88 million. Scholl will be focusing on using the proceeds to build a new home for Miami’s visual artists, a holistic environment that will help elevate their careers on the international stage.

Scholl’s career in the visual arts is particularly interesting since the Miami native had never stepped foot in an art museum until the year before he started at Miami Law, where he met his wife, Debra Schwartz Scholl. (Ironically, during law school, they took jobs selling art in a mall.)

"I didn't have any cultural exposure growing up," he said. "Maybe that is why I am so passionate about it now.

Passion doesn't begin to describe the couple's interests. They began buying real estate on South Beach in 1987, eventually acquiring and restoring 20 Art Deco buildings. In the late 1990s, they began investing in Wynwood. Their curated show of Australian Aboriginal art toured five museums in the United States in 2015, including a stop at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, where Dennis is a trustee.

“Law school was the single greatest intellectual experience I’ve had in my life," Scholl said. “I loved the honing of your analytical mind in law school. There was a lot of investment in risk-reward ratio and things like that; the ability to look at a problem and parse it out in a way that you can break it down into components and solve for each of the components. And that is how I do business, that is how I do personal projects, art projects, and collect art.

"So much of Miami today is connected to the arts -- from the ever-changing graffiti of Wynwood to a vibrant museum and gallery culture," said Scholl. "It's not just a week in December anymore; it is well on the way to becoming an international art hub and expanding ArtCenter/South Florida's grants program and outreach is a critical element. We are going to put the fuel where the artists are."

Given his multiple interests and successes, it is little wonder that Scholl often asks himself the same question he asks others: “What are you personally passionate about? ...Because when the going gets tough, that passion is the only thing that keeps you going.”

See Scholl profiled in Miami Law Magazine fall 2010 article “ LAW & ART: Six Alumni for Whom Life is Less about the Art of the Deal than the Deal for the Art”  
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