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Crystal Bridges Director Moving to Chicago’s Lucas Museum

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Alice Walton and departing Crystal Bridges president Don Bacigalupi. (Photo: NWABusinessJournal.com)
Alice Walton and departing Crystal Bridges president Don Bacigalupi. (Photo: NWABusinessJournal.com)

With his 1,000+ studio visits and thousands more miles traveled for the national survey “State of the Art,” Don Bacigalupi has announced his resignation as president of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He will step down on January 14 but will remain a member of the board.

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He has been appointed founding president of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and will assume the post on January 15. The Lucas Museum is being constructed in Chicago by MAD Architects with an expected opening in 2018.

Bacigalupi was appointed executive director of Crystal Bridges in 2009, four years into its planning, which was several times delayed due to construction issues related to its site. It opened in 2011 and has received 1.5 million visitors, including 88,000 so far for “State of the Art.”

In February 2013, Bacigalupi’s role was redefined and he became museum president and a board member. The move was described as a “leadership realignment” to support the museum’s strategic plans. Rod Bigelow, deputy director for operations and administration, was made executive director and assumed the museum’s day-to-day operations.

Museum founder and board chair Alice Walton said in a statement: “Don’s achievements at Crystal Bridges have been numerous, and many of our successes are attributable to his guidance leading up to the opening of the museum and continuing into our highly successful next three years. … His expertise in overseeing the launch of new institutions makes him an ideal leader for the Lucas Museum, and we’ll be applauding his accomplishments.”

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“I’ll be a lifelong friend and fan” of Crystal Bridges, stated Bacigalupi, who was previously president, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art (2003-09), executive director of the San Diego Museum of Art (1999-2003), director and chief curator of the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston (1995-99), and contemporary art curator at the San Antonio Museum of Art (1993-95). Bacigalupi earned his MA and PhD in art history from the University of Texas at Austin, and his bachelor’s at the University of Houston.

In the Chicago museum’s announcement, founder and chair George Lucas, (yes, that George Lucas) said: “Don shares my vision for building an education-focused, world-class museum that expands public understanding and appreciation of narrative art. Don’s decades of experience include a proven track record for building a museum from inception, and he recognizes that community partnerships and multidimensional programming are critical to ensuring a museum’s long-term impact.”

The Lucas Museum’s collection will include works by such artists and designers as Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, John Tenniel (Alice in Wonderland), digital animation by the ILM Team, and works produced for Walt Disney and MAD Magazine.