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Nelson-Atkins CEO will discuss power of leadership, design

Friday, March 11, 2016

LAWRENCE — Julián Zugazagoitia, director and CEO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and Mahesh Daas, dean of the School of Architecture, Design & Planning, will engage in a conversation on the use of architecture and design as tools for institutional leadership and transformation. The event will take place at 10 a.m. March 23 in The Forum at Marvin Hall and will be live-streamed.

Under Zugazagoitia’s leadership, the New York City-based architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi conducted a study in Kansas City on enhancing public spaces in the neighborhoods and institutional landscapes that surround the Nelson-Atkins. The conceptual study, which recently won a prestigious P/A Award from Architect magazine, suggested concepts for the future that would engage area leaders and stakeholders in conversations to create an enhanced cultural district.

The study became the starting point for an engaged and productive series of conversations with the community about historic preservation, improving pedestrian and street circulation patterns, creating better ways to give the public access to outdoor art and finding ways to create an improved Kansas City for everyone.

“Design is a powerful tool when used to connect the community and expand the mission of the Nelson-Atkins to engage new audiences and constituencies,” said Zugazagoitia. “We are trying to dream a future for the city so that the arts play a more intrinsic role in people’s lives.”

The use of design as a change agent is a passion for both Zugazagoitia and Daas. Zugazagoitia was born in Mexico and educated at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre in France. While serving as the director and CEO of El Museo del Barrio in New York City, a leading institution in the field of Latin American and Latino art, he worked with the architecture firm Gruzen Samton to transformed the institution through a $44 million renovation project.

The expansion was transformative for El Museo. It greatly raised its profile, helping increase its collections and financial support, and creating better connections with the Latino community both in New York and internationally.

Daas is the author of "Leading With Aesthetics: The Transformational Leadership of Charles M. Vest at MIT" and an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Distinguished Professor. His book tells the story of Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Charles Vest. Vest’s work with architects such as Frank Gehry, Steven Holl and Fumihiko Maki helped restore MIT’s reputation as innovative and cutting-edge at a time when it had become conservative and staid.

“An institution without its architecture is like a soul without a body or a person without a face,” Daas said. “Like Charles Vest, Julian Zugazagoitia is demonstrating how a principled leader with a supportive and collaborative team can use architecture to engage and motivate people by helping articulate a common purpose and the highest expectations for excellence.

“We are looking forward to a great conversation,” he said.

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