University Art Museum director aims to introduce one of our community’s greatest assets to children long before they enter elementary school, creating a lifelong template of education.
In the summer of 2014, LouAnne Greenwald, who is originally from a small town in Ohio, moved to Lafayette from Washington, D.C., to take the helm at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum. Greenwald sees Lafayette as a major intersecting point of the arts between New Orleans and Houston, but her vision is to reach Acadiana through the museum’s programming. Earlier this year, we sat together and chatted on the second floor meeting room, surrounded by glass and steel.
The Independent: I love the juxtaposition of A. Hays Town’s colonial style next to this sleek, minimalist structure. I enjoy the steel columns embedded in the glass and how they reflect the Doric columns of Town’s building, the two buildings side by side as an example of growth between the old and the new, something really positive for the campus.
LouAnne Greenwald: I met with one of the architects, Steve Dumez from Eskew, Dumez, and Ripple in New Orleans, who designed this building. What he said about the A. Hays Town house was that it represents the first sculpture in our sculpture garden that would grow across the grounds. And, you know that way that they lit it so special at night, you could read it as a sculpture in the fact that it is refl ected in the glass, picking up on the juxtaposition of the old and the new that you mentioned.
I’ve long felt a sort of Ivy League aesthetic to the campus with the red brick buildings, but we’re better than “ivy”; we’ve got live oaks! Still, the university isn’t the same campus of my grandfather or father’s, mine, or even the campus my children will inherit. How do you see the role of the museum evolving like the aesthetic of the campus?
My thinking about museums is they are not those of yesterday. They are not just places that house objects. The programming that is done at the museum is just as important as the exhibitions and the collections. It’s the programming that offers an array of lenses through which to view the content that you’re presenting. And this is a culturally rich community where everybody participates, which is one of the amazing things about Lafayette.
Do you want to share any specific goals, regarding your vision of outreach through programming?
I see us developing a lifelong template of education, working with parents and their babies, encouraging visual stimulation at an early age. So by the time the children are in elementary school, they’ve been to the museum a few times and feel they own this space. The education component really needs to be figured because hat is an important part of our mission and because it will drive our attendance up through school groups.
I’ve always appreciated the yellow school buses parked on the university campus, transporting youth to events here for their school’s own function or to see university performances. It makes sense to bring young students on campus.
And it’s eye-opening for them. It’s amazing to be part of the up-and-coming swing Lafayette is experiencing. It’s exciting to be part of re-creating this institution to be as much a part of the diverse community as it is a part of the university. We need to work to let people even an hour outside of Lafayette know we are here, and that we are their museum, too.
Acadiana is uniquely diverse. Even though folks get caught in their comfort zones, they can’t help but be a part of the community. Whether it’s a festival or something formal, there’s always a way to experience our culture. The only disappointment is when the arts are cut, and everyone feels the deficit.
And to elaborate on that, I had a really transformative experience in a museum. I was 18 and had just gotten my driver’s license. It was my fi rst solo drive, and I went to the local museum, and I was blown away by an exhibition of paintings by Julian Schnabel.
It’s funny that you mention Julian Schnabel. I saw a show of his, basically by accident. He had these enormous paintings tilted against walls, with party planners running about preparing for an event. His work is incredibly inspiring.
Absolutely. And I left [the museum] thinking, “You know, that’s what I’m going to do with my life.” I knew I liked art, but I had no idea art could be like that. I felt like this was my museum, and I had access to it. And thank God for museums that can provide this kind of self-directed learning experience where you go in on your own accord, you decide what you look at, what you read, what you watch, and that can be the sort of fl ash of inspiration that can change your life.
MUSEUM LOCATION: 710 East St. Mary Blvd.
MUSEUM HOURS: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday Closed Sunday, Monday, Friday and all major holidays
MUSEUM ADMISSION: $5 (337) 482-0811
For more information and to become a sustaining member of the Hilliard University Museum, visit: museum.louisiana.edu