Noted fine arts executive returns to address graduates

feature-keeganThe December 2009 graduating class from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will be given encouragement and advice from one of America’s foremost fine arts administrators, Dan Keegan.

His background in business and art makes him an ideal commencement speaker for a University long considered a leader in interdisciplinary education.

A 1972 UW-Green Bay graduate, Keegan was appointed director of the Milwaukee Art Museum in February 2008 following service as director of the San Jose Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

In his charge to the graduates, he is expected to share his perspectives as an artist and executive, and to prepare this graduating class, in particular, to be leaders, regardless of their field of study. He’ll likely mention, too, to appreciate the teaching they had here, as he does. In an interview in the May 2008 Inside UW-Green Bay alumni magazine, Keegan was generous in his compliments for his alma mater, and particularly the mentoring of teachers (Damkoehler, Prevetti, Grimes and others) who made a tremendous impact on his life.

At the Milwaukee Art Museum, Keegan oversees one of his home state’s cultural treasures: an institution that attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, houses about 20,000 works of art and is internationally renowned for its breathtaking architecture. The museum’s Quadracci Pavilion (with it’s iconic movable “wings”) is notable as the first U.S. building designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Since arriving at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Keegan has created a new Department of Visitor Experience and developed a technology initiative to transform the way the museum interacts with the community, builds new audiences and meets the expectations of next generation museum-goers.

His other initiatives include greatly enhanced family programming that grew family experiences four-fold to over 45,000 people annually; a monthly young professionals’ event, MAM After Dark; and Art Generation, a $1 million education sponsorship from Kohl’s Foundation that provides hands-on art experiences in the Museum and community to thousands of participants.

Major exhibitions under Keegan’s leadership include an international partnership with the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and Rembrandt House in Amsterdam to present the Dutch master, Jan Lievens; and the museum’s current national touring exhibition, “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade.” Keegan also arranged for Renaissance master Raphael’s most famous painting, “La Velata,” rarely seen outside Italy, to come to Milwaukee in April 2010.

Keegan earned his bachelor’s in Communication-Art from UW-Green Bay and went on to receive a master of fine arts degree from Southern Illinois University. Early in life he was a struggling artist and musician, a janitor (twice), and he also worked refinishing bowling balls. He credits his college days — experience in both creative activity and practical problem-solving — for setting him along his ultimate path.

“UW-Green Bay has helped my career,” he told an interviewer, “by setting a tone, laying a foundation encouraging me to explore and examine and take creative risks. I always felt UW-Green Bay was a great place to do that.”

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