When Carol Gikas announced her retirement as the director of the Louisiana Art & Science Museum after 39 years, many wondered who would fill her shoes. She was only the second director of the 57-year-old museum and devoted much of her career to establishing the well-renowned downtown attraction.
After a six-month nationwide search, the museum found the person for the job: Serena Pandos.
The Maryland native moved to Baton Rouge and took over the position in January. She says she was drawn to the post because she is passionate about the impact art and science museums have on communities, and she admired the unique facility, the staff, and the warm welcome she received at the Louisiana Art & Science museum.
“I think one of the most attractive things about my first visit to downtown Baton Rouge was realizing that it’s basically a museum district,” Pandos says. “We get to be neighbors with LSU Museum of Art and Capitol Park Museum, and that strengthens us in numbers. It creates a learning community with inspiring and enriching culture.”
Before moving to Baton Rouge, Pandos was the executive director at the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, Texas, where she served for eight years.
The 55-year-old has accomplished a lot over her career. In addition to her administrative work, Pandos is a mixed-media artist whose work has been shown everywhere from California to Japan. Before joining the McAllen museum, she traveled to countries like Ireland, Mexico and Italy, where she completed her MFA study abroad program. She worked behind the scenes on famous projects like “Charging Bull,” the 7,000-pound bronze bull sculpture installed on Wall Street in Manhattan following the 1987 stock market crash.
Since she moved to Baton Rouge, Pandos says she has been focused on observing the operations at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, developing relationships with her team and learning more about the community.
Already, she appears to fit right in with the staff. She has a warm aura, emitting an infectious laugh while joking with her public relations manager during the 225 interview.
“I don’t want to make any swift changes,” Pandos says. “I’m not trying to prescribe my experiences onto LASM. It’s more about taking advantage of the fresh perspective I bring as an out-of-towner to keep us rolling with the momentum and success that Carol and the board laid out for those 39 years.”
One of Pandos’ missions for the museum is creating more access. With the help of contributions from local donors, Pandos wants to offer additional free admission days for the public beyond the First Sunday events that coincide with the LSU Museum of Art. In the future, she plans to add more evening events to attract young professionals, planetarium shows and improve the museum’s curb appeal. She also wants to make the museum more prominent in the city skyline by adding lighting to line the museum’s exterior facing the bridge.
“I believe that museums are crowning jewels to cities,” Pandos says. “My biggest dream is for our museum to continue being one of those sparkling jewels.” lasm.org