Art-school graduates sometimes return triumphantly to their alma maters for exhibitions of their works -- but past presidents?

Art-school graduates sometimes return triumphantly to their alma maters for exhibitions of their works -- but past presidents?

Dennison W. "Denny" Griffith, who was the top administrator at the Columbus College of Art & Design from May 1998 until June 2014, will be the opening artist for the 2016 season of Exhibitions and Visiting Artists. The exhibit, titled "Another World," will feature three galleries of Griffith's latest work in the Contemporary Art Space, formerly the Canzani Center Gallery.

The show opens Jan. 8 and will run through March 31, said Michael Goodson, director of exhibitions at CCAD.

Griffith, who was deputy director of the Columbus Museum of Art when he was named president of CCAD, is a native of Delaware who earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1974 and his master of fine arts degree from Ohio State University in 1994.

Initially, Griffith said last week, he thought the gallery showing of his paintings was a sort of thank-you for his years of service to the college.

After all, during his tenure as president, the downtown campus doubled in size, annual contributions increased by a factor of six, a master of fine arts program was created, partnerships were established with schools in China and other countries, and the exhibitions program expanded to include international artists.

"At first, it was kind of a nice honor to have the director of exhibitions for the gallery program say we'd like to welcome you home again in, I guess you would call it a vignette show," said Griffith, who splits his time between a home in the Bexley area and Asheville, N.C.

But "Another World" isn't about honoring Griffith's legacy as former president, Goodson said. It has far more to do with the quality and even quantity of the new work the artist is producing.

"I'm first and foremost interested in artists who work," said Goodson, who came to CCAD in August 2011 from a post as the exhibitions director at the James Cohan Gallery in New York City. "I'm interested in artists whose ideas generate production, artists who make a lot of work."

What was to have been a relatively minor showing of Griffith's work grew into a major exhibition the more Goodson saw of what he initially thought was a "really strange turn" in the former president's approach to painting.

"I've gotten acclimated to it, so it's not strange," Goodson said. "It makes a lot of sense now.

"He had, in a sense, thrown himself into it, and that always intrigues me. I like to honor that."

"Artists who have not fallen asleep at the switch over time will continue to work hard and to rethink and revise the work they're making," Griffith said. "It's a constant journey. It's a search that you're on to find a new way of seeing and thinking about the world we're living in.

"It's the artist's journey, not the administrator's journey."

It is also a journey, Griffith added, that was made possible by his retirement as the third president of CCAD, which gave him the time to visit art museums and look at the works of other artists.

"It's made a world of difference," he said. "I no longer have the day-to-day responsibilities of fundraising and administration and management, which I adored. Being able to pursue what you want to do -- it's a gift.

Goodson said the exhibition of Griffith's paintings would appeal to people who are "interested in new information in art, curious about how ideas evolve and change."

"If you think you know his work, this will be something you want to see," Goodson said.