LSU Museum of Art’s executive director talks about his first year in Baton Rouge

Daniel Stetson jokes about wearing many hats. It’s not all that surprising, since Stetson shares his last name with the famous hat company and has a job as LSU Museum of Art’s executive director. Stetson looks at the museum as a bridge between the university’s campus and the surrounding community, so as a newer Baton Rouge resident, he is working to immerse himself in the city by visiting its tourist attractions—all while living like a local. lsumoa.org

Occupation: Executive Director at LSU Museum of Art

Previous residence: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Moved here: January 2016

What brought you to Baton Rouge?

This job; I came here for it. I have a professional career as a museum director, and at this stage in my career, I really wanted to come back and work at a university. I was looking across the country and interviewing several different places, but I really liked the idea of coming back to a university, and I just love this town.

What about LSU appealed to you?

Very strong art department, strong landscape architecture school, literature [department] is really strong. I actually like the “Geaux Tigers!” spirit of this place. I’m really proud of that in a way. I have felt that the people here are exceptional. I’ve been in stores and people just tell me stuff or help me do things.

What was your impression of Baton Rouge before you moved here?

I didn’t know a lot. I’d been to New Orleans, and I really like New Orleans. I like the music [in south Louisiana]. I like the river. I like that mix of cultures that is here in this state. I’ve lived a lot of places [with] the same issues that are here—a lot of typical issues of the South [like] education, crime. The education issue is one I care a great deal about. It’s about making a community better, and if you go where need is, then you’re doing your work and you’re serving a mission.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Parrain’s [Seafood Restaurant] is probably my favorite restaurant. I like their grilled oysters.

What is a typical day for you here, at the museum?

I’m not sure if there’s a typical day. It’s partly what drew me to this work. We’ve built a real big program [here], so hiring people was a priority [and] getting big projects under way. I’m a curator and an art historian and a businessperson. You have to be [all three] to be a director. And you have to be a marketing person and a development person. So a typical day can involve all those things, but that’s why I like it.

What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday in Baton Rouge?

If it’s the first Saturday [of the month], I like to go to the [Baton Rouge Arts Market]. We go to Christina’s [Restaurant] for breakfast. I have gotten back to doing yard work. One of my great loves is literature, so I find time to read, and I also love movies.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of 225 Magazine.