HESSE MCGRAW | PARTNER | EL DORADO                                                                                                                      PHOTO CREDIT / VERA MERCER

HESSE MCGRAW | PARTNER | EL DORADO                                                                                                                      PHOTO CREDIT / VERA MERCER


JUNE 21 2017

el dorado is very pleased to announce the expansion of its leadership structure and welcomes Hesse McGraw as a partner. Through this newly created role, el dorado is integrating a curatorial and writing practice into the heart of the firm to intensify its work at the intersection of architecture, contemporary art, and cultural impact. “For the past decade, Hesse has redefined the role of a curator,” said el dorado Partner Josh Shelton. “He has stepped outside the walls of the gallery to activate the city and supported artists as they engage intractable problems at a global scale — and he does so with infectious optimism. The range of his curatorial expertise and fearless approach will expand the growing scope and reach of el dorado’s practice.”

Bringing Hesse’s specific curatorial leadership, together with a generous and searching architecture and urban design practice, signals el dorado’s collective ambition to invent a practice model that animates its internal creative process and unlocks the ecstatic potential of each project and team.

el dorado began as a hybrid practice in 1996, integrating architecture, fabrication, and a gallery for installation-based artwork. The firm’s work has been guided by core commitments to design excellence, rigor of craft, and a belief in artists. Over 20 years, el dorado has worked purposefully across scales and contexts, from city blocks to furniture, and between critical ideas and an intangible, spiritual attachment to place. The firm’s growth and newly awarded opportunities at greater scale and complexity across the United States has led el dorado to pursue these challenges through this re-invigorated partner structure. By taking a uniquely curatorial approach to process, el dorado’s new practice model will bridge leading edge urban design, artist collaborations, architecture, academic research, and direct community engagement to create shared ownership in the heart and soul of places. 

Partner David Dowell said, “After 15 years of unbroken dialogue, I am thrilled to have Hesse finally join el dorado in our unwavering pursuit of architectural excellence, exceptional craft, and cultural resonance. Hesse brings added layers of rigorous research, artist advocacy, and exceptional storytelling that will serve our clients and team well. His years of working on the client side of major arts and cultural institution capital improvement projects gives us valuable insight into bringing out the best solutions for these kinds of projects. We are so happy for him and his family to return to Kansas City and join us.”

“Our partnership and work will catalyze opportunities that exceed typical metrics to launch unforeseen possibilities,” Shelton said. “el dorado has always chased after big ideas and found joy in the unknown, and we look forward to evolving our practice to curating the public realm at a civic scale.” 

About this opportunity to join el dorado, Hesse McGraw stated, “I am honored and excited to join David and Josh and the entire team at el dorado. This is an absolutely unique opportunity to deepen the impacts and reach of a lively critical design practice, and to share our belief and trust in artists broadly in our culture. I believe our work together can prove the essential role of artists and design in public life. At the same time, I am deeply grateful for the last four years I have spent at San Francisco Art Institute, a magical institution that continues to invent the future; and I look forward to ongoing collaboration with SFAI to realize projects our remarkable team has launched. This opportunity to join el dorado is core to my vision and fulfills a dream for my family to return home to the Midwest.” 

Hesse will relocate to Kansas City and begin his work with el dorado in August.

About Hesse McGraw

Hesse McGraw is a curator and writer, and currently serves as Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute. His curatorial practice and arts organization leadership are acclaimed for shifting organizations into springboards that expand the agency of artists beyond the gallery. His noted long-term projects include commissioning Jill Magid’s work The Proposal (2014 – ongoing), which offers the gift of architect Luis Barragán’s body in the form of a two-carat diamond in exchange for the return of his body of work to Mexico; Michael Jones McKean’s public artwork The Rainbow (2012 – ongoing), which generates real prismatic rainbows at civic scale from recycled water; and Theaster Gates’ Carver Bank (2012 – 2016) in Nebraska, which convened a space of urban ecstasy that supported artists living and working in North Omaha. Through these collaborations, more than 50 curated exhibitions, and extensive public and educational programs, Hesse has powerfully shared the instrumental role of artists in igniting public imagination and animating our largest problems.

His experience includes serving as Chief Curator at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, Nebraska (2008 – 2013); Associate Director at Max Protetch gallery, New York (2005 – 2007); and as Founding Director and Curator of Paragraph (2002 – 2005), a gallery that continues to operate under the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. In each of these roles, he collaborated extensively with architects to create and renovate spaces for art, artists, and audiences — these projects include SFAI’s Studios Center at Fort Mason (Leddy Maytum Stacy); Walter and McBean Galleries renovation (Paffard Keatinge-Clay); Bemis Center renovations (Min | Day); Carver Bank (Theaster Gates and Rebuild Foundation); and Paragraph (BNIM).

About el dorado inc

Established in 1996, el dorado inc is an architecture, urban design, curatorial, and fabrication practice based in Kansas City, Missouri. The firm believes design excellence is possible anywhere, for anyone. The sensibilities and rigor of the Midwest guide their practice, yet they’ve learned as much from Don Quixote and Jean Prouvé as they have from Kansas City barbecue. el dorado is a small firm that does big things with an alchemical touch — the team at el dorado believes anything is possible. 

The unique practice methodologies of el dorado have been published widely and recognized with accolades nationally and internationally. el dorado was ranked the 11th best design firm in the United States by the 2016 Architect 50 Survey. Other notable honors include two Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Design-Build Honor Awards (in 2016 & 2017), the Architectural League of New York Emerging Voices award in 2008, and AIA Kansas City’s Firm of the Year award in 2012. el dorado was included in Curbed’s 2015 inaugural class of Groundbreakers, which recognized architectural practices “making cutting edge work that’s changing the way the built world functions.”

el dorado and Hesse McGraw previously collaborated on the MOVING IN MOVING OUT exhibition at FLEX Self Storage in 2004, the Bemis Gardens project (2012), and more recently as part of the multidisciplinary consultant team led by art practice Sans façon to create phase II of The City of Calgary Utilities and Environmental Protection Department’s (UEP) public art plan.