LAFAYETTE — The new executive director of the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum is polished and her short auburn hair blends perfectly into the Hunt Slonem Louisiana landscape on the wall.
Affable and approachable yet Washington-wise, LouAnne Greenwald speaks capably and warmly about constituencies, activating public spaces and community engagement.
“I love the juxtaposition of the new with the old,” she says, looking out the glass windows of the Hilliard on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus at the A. Hayes Town building just a few yards away.
Her eye for architecture stems from a former stint as deputy director at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles. Bi-coastal experience aside, this is her first time residing in the Deep South.
“I think when you go into a community, you’re always an outsider,” she says. “You learn a lot like that. A lot of it is building relationships.”
The Ohio-born Greenwald was trained as an artist, attended Kent State University and the University of Southern California for her masters of fine arts degree. She went to work for nonprofits and later ventured into fundraising, even establishing her own consulting firm.
In Lafayette less than a month, Greenwald says Washington D.C. — ground zero for museums — has “funkier” art spaces and an eclectic mix of work plus powerful organizations, the purpose of which is to fundraise and promote the arts. It’s no surprise since the city’s primary industry is politics, and its arts culture revolves around the Smithsonian.
“My focus was fundraising, an important part of any institution,” she says.
She has married her love of education, the arts and culture into one career.
“The arts have been a big part of my life,” she says. “When I was 18 and had just gotten my driver’s license, I went to see an exhibition of Julian Schnabel’s plate paintings, shattered shards on canvas that he’d painted over. I never knew art could be like that. It was an important moment for me.”
It was also the moment she realized museums provide people with turning points.
Greenwald’s vision for the museum is one where the Hilliard is not exclusive to the fine arts community or the university, and she feels programming needs to be diverse, responsive to the community and considerate of the city’s many constituencies.
In coming days, she and the staff will work together designing programming that tailors to the public interest. She sees The Hilliard Society, the museum’s high-level membership group, as a potential resource also, and believes Lafayette’s diverse arts culture as well as its university will provide a solid foundation for future collaborations. She is also confident she can meet the challenge.
“This is the only official art museum,” she says. “Great programs will bring people in.”
As for being the first woman to helm the Hilliard? “It’s high time,” she says with a laugh. “Men still dominate (the museum field), but we’re seeing more and more female directors. It’ll be interesting for me and interesting for the community. Stay tuned.”