Arts leaders in the city, state and beyond offer their tributes.

Dennison W. "Denny" Griffith, former president of CCAD, has died following a two-year battle with cancer.

Griffith is credited with casting a vision for the growth of the school - in program, student body and space.

"I can't overstate how much this hurts.Denny was an innovative leader, a talented painter and a tireless champion for the arts," CCAD provost and interim president Kevin J. Conlon said in a written statement. "Most of all, he was a good man."

Griffith was born in Delaware, Ohio, on Oct. 22, 1952, and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1974 and a master of fine arts from Ohio State University in 1994.

He served as the third president of CCAD for 16 years, from May 1998, when he was appointed to the post, until his retirement in June 2014. During that time, he led the college through transformational change.

"Denny's valedictory show, Another World, opened at our Beeler Gallery on Jan. 8. The show is a shining achievement that reminds us of what a special president and artist he was -a leader of our school and our community, an educator, a tireless champion of what we are all about at CCAD, and a hard-working painter who pursued his passion with an exuberance that is so evident in the work currently on display," CCAD Board of Trustees chair James E. Kunk said in a statement.

"These paintings are not about cancer," Griffith told Alive in a recent interview. "I know people are going to say, 'Denny's work looks radically different. Denny has cancer.' And make a connection. It can't help but affect it, I guess, but this work is full of color, joyous and vivid. [Retirement and the cancer diagnosis] have only impacted my work in two ways. One, sometimes I don't have the energy I'd like. And two, I have so much more time, I've been able to generate an enormous amount of work.

"I've learned over time that the big goal is to find out what you have to say as an artist that is visually distinctive or unique," Griffith said. "I've always loved to look at the world and render the world."

Griffith is survived by his wife, Beth Fisher, of Bexley and Asheville, N.C.; his son, Blake Fisher, of Raleigh, N.C.; his mother, Sally Griffith, of Black Mountain, N.C.; his brother, Tom Griffith (Beth and nephews Zach and Ty), of Seattle; and his sister, Anne Barrus (Gib and nieces Gracie Barrus and Lucia Parker and great nephew Hayden Parker), of Burnsville, N.C.

CCAD provided these written tributes from arts leaders in the city, state and beyond. Alive will update these throughout the day as other memories are offered by Griffith's colleagues and friends.

Nannette Maciejunes, executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art

"Denny and I were colleagues at the Columbus Museum of Art for more than a decade. He was always generous with sharing his ideas, advice, and passion for art. When I first became a director, he was the lifeline and mentor who helped me transition to my new leadership role. His years as an arts professional here in Columbus changed us. He made us a better place. He will be remembered as one of the key cultural figures of our generation. As his friend, I was so happy to see him immerse himself in his painting over this last year because it gave him, and others, so much joy."

Sherri Geldin, director of the Wexner Center for the Arts

"I've delighted in the gift of Denny's friendship for over 20 years, having met him soon after my arrival in Columbus. He will ever remain in my memory as that all-too rare combination of master, mentor, 'mensch.' An irrepressible force - unimaginably compassionate, fiercely loyal, and wickedly funny. A quintessential Midwesterner in his generosity, humility, and huge heart. A man of the world in his cultural curiosity and dexterous diplomacy. A civic leader and culture shaper of keen vision. And an impassioned artist whose life-long joy in the creative process propelled - and in the end - perpetuated his very being. A prince among people and one helluva guy."


Rebecca Ibel, director/curator, Pizzuti Collection

"Denny made Columbus a better place by being a brilliant community leader, by setting the example of a practicing artist committed to painting and always challenging himself and others to go further and love it. I count myself as one of the many to call him an inspiration, a mentor and a friend."

Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC)

"Denny Griffith was an incredible advocate for the arts in Columbus and his influence and accomplishments are both remarkable and lasting.He was able to leverage his strong leadership of the Columbus College of Art & Design to benefit the arts in the entire community, and he made the city a better place as a result. We all admired and looked up to Denny, and, on top of that, he was genuinely fun and engaging."

Donna S. Collins, executive director of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC)

"The OAC family is saddened to learn of Denny's passing. He coordinated the Individual Artists program at the OAC from 1978-1983. We have been privileged to work with Denny - to be inspired by him and to learn from him about the value of the arts and the impact they have on our lives. His legacy will forever remain in our hearts."

Deborah Obalil, president and executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD)

"Denny Griffith's contributions to art and design education extended far beyond CCAD and Columbus. As an active and long-serving member of the Board of Trustees of AICAD, he led efforts to strengthen the messaging around the value of art and design education for the association and helped guide our New York Studio Residency Program through a leadership transition and to improved student experience. Denny was an affable and beloved colleague nationally and internationally, passionate about students and the artists and designers into which they transformed over the course of their education."

Karen P. Moynahan, executive director of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)

"Denny graciously shared his expertise. His approach was infused with great kindness and good cheer, and, at just the right moments, well-placed and often-needed humor.For those who had the opportunity, it was an honor and a pleasure to work with Denny."

Marlana Hammond Keynes, owner, Hammond Harkins Gallery

"From my perspective, passion was the center of Denny's artistic life. Over the years, I would sit with him in his studio and discuss future exhibitions of his work. These conversations focused on progression and change in his painting and how it would be presented to the public. I realized how lucky I was to be a small part of his extraordinary vision.In the last three years, I marveled at how intensely and passionately his work compressed decades into months in completely brilliant paintings. I am left with a heavy heart knowing our journey together has ended, but I am blessed with so many wonderful memories."

Slideshow: Denny Griffith (1952-2016)