Museum Innovator Don Bacigalupi to speak at Kennesaw State University’s College of the Arts

image of Don Bacigalupi
Dr. Don Bacigalupi will speak to the KSU community on January 25 at 7 p.m. 

Art historian and museum builder Dr. Don Bacigalupi to share wisdom gleaned across his career

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 14, 2021) — If there is a museum whisperer to the world’s most prominent art collectors, Dr. Don Bacigalupi would qualify. In this unplanned, unforeseen role, the former curator has become a “trusted partner to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals when they want to create public art institutions,” according to Worth Magazine. Philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton of the Walton family (Wal-Mart) hired him as the Founding Director on the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Next, Star Wars creator and filmmaker George Lucas appointed him Founding President of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

An innovator in museum management, collection, and exhibition development, Bacigalupi will speak at Kennesaw State University College of the Arts’ Research Forum on January 25 at 7 p.m. The event is free to attend, either in-person at the Stillwell Theater, or via ArtsKSU Virtual, with a simple reservation

Bacigalupi credits his passion for being chosen to help build new institutions from the ground up; one of his high-profile positions was working with the world’s richest woman to create a new museum in the small Ozarks town of Bentonville, Arkansas. “It was great working with Alice Walton, who has a passion for ensuring that children growing up in the region—who previously had no access to art, as in her own childhood—would have the opportunity to see great art, be inspired by it, and learn more about it, while being educated about American art and American history. We were quite a team on this enormous project; we both share the same passion.”  

Next, the filmmaker George Lucas sought Bacigalupi’s leadership for his forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.  Under construction in Los Angeles and scheduled to open in the next few years, the Lucas Museum is parked in the urban landscape like a landed spaceship from one of Lucas’ films.

image of the Lucas Museum from the air
Lucas Museum of Narrative Art artist rendering, courtesy of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Relying heavily on Lucas’ ever-growing private collection, the Lucas Museum will showcase original comic art as well as costumes, storyboards, stage sets and other archival material from his and others’ movies. It will also exhibit original illustration art from American artists Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. In 2018, Bacigalupi was instrumental in acquiring Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop for the museum (valued by Sotheby’s at $20-$30 million), making a big splash in the artworld not only because of the estimated value, but also because of the complex nature of the deal.  

Now acting as a special advisor to numerous art institutions and private collectors, Bacigalupi will share with the KSU community the milestones of his professional journey, and the obstacles, insights, and forward-going solutions he gleaned along the way. The presentation fits nicely into his philosophy that museums should be accessible and part of the fabric of the community in which they are housed. He says, “People in the region can—and should—be a part of a museum’s life.”

“Students from K-12 to the university level have a natural engagement with museums. Museums are educational by their nature—they inspire and educate people through the arts, and students of all ages can be part of the museum,” he adds. He explains that museums must understand their potential audiences and develop offerings that are community specific. The goal is that “audiences participate in the life of a museum. They don’t just visit, but rather, they have an impact on how the museum develops programming, exhibitions, whatever the rich menu of offerings might be.”

“For me, museum work is about sharing my passion, my experience, my own learning through art, and opening people’s eyes, whether through the classroom or visiting museums,” he says. He has a bit of advice for college students, too. “Find out who are you and identify your own passion. What drives you? What inspires you to get up and share that passion with others? Take the time to find out what you can contribute to the world. It’s the key to a happy life!” 

Bacigalupi’s experience includes over 25 years of innovative museum management, collection, and exhibition development, as well as inspired educational programming. Earlier, he served as President, Director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art, where he oversaw the construction and opening of its world-renowned Glass Pavilion. He previously served as the Executive Director of the San Diego Museum of Art and Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston. 

He holds his MA and PhD degrees in art history from the University of Texas at Austin. He has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Association of Art Museum Directors and the National Committee of the International Council of Museums. A respected scholar and seasoned lecturer both domestically and abroad, he has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards and was a 1996 fellow at the Getty Trust. He founded Los Angeles-based Don Bacigalupi Art Counsel, Inc. in 2019.

Dr. Bacigalupi’s presentation on January 25, 2022, at 7 p.m. will be presented in-person at the Stillwell Theater on the Kennesaw campus, and also online via ArtsKSU Virtual; only a simple reservation is required to attend.

--Kathie Beckett