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David Owsley Museum gains new art director

This article originally appeared in the Ball State Daily News

Since his first internship in Cherry Valley, Calif., in 1988, Robert G. La France has worked with art and museums.

His interest in museums sparked during his year abroad in Italy during his junior year of college, studying its culture and exploring its museums.

On July 1, La France joined the David Owsley Museum of Art as its newest director.

La France worked in museums as a researcher, a curator and as well as a welfare officer in California, prior to joining the Ball State staff.

Last January, while working for the University of Illinois, La France saw a painting he wanted to buy for the university’s art museum. He was unable to do so due to Illinois’ budget. A few months later, La France met David Owsley and told him about his love of the painting.

Owsley told La France he had bought the painting and sent it to Ball State's museum one week prior.

“I decided it was my destiny to follow the [painting], which landed me here,” La France said.

Now, La France oversees the museum, operating it on its size and scale. The David Owsley Museum contains about 10,500 objects.

“We’re a really good size,” La France said. “Much of the collection was chosen by David Owsley. He was a curator and chose high-quality stuff.”

One of La France’s goals for the museum is to try to partner with other museums, especially those of other major colleges.

La France’s main idea is to get every Ball State student to walk through the museum at least once during their college career. "Every student can be involved with the museum from the first day of freshman year to their last day as a senior or graduate school," La France said.

He has even begun targeting students before they step foot on campus as freshmen.

“It would be great to get students in here during orientation,” La France said.

To help draw more students in, La France and his team have set up different events for the museum. One of his favorites is Final Friday, featuring PechaKucha presentations, an event that happens on the last Friday of every month. For Final Fridays, the museum finds an interactive way of programming while still giving information. The presentations target millennials.

Since most lectures do not appeal to the millennials generation, the programs are made up of five or six talks that spotlight the ideas of people of this generation.

Tania Said Schuler, the museum’s director of education, said Final Fridays were made possible because of La France’s arrival and partnerships.

Both said they hope to connect with Ball State community members. They plan to add art from every culture to the museum to attract a broader group of people. The goal of the museum is to not just tell people about the exhibits, but find their own place in it.

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