The Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has announced that its director of thirty-three years, Russell Panczenko, is stepping down this summer.
During his tenure at the institution, which has the second largest collection of art in Wisconsin, Panczenko oversaw a $43 million expansion project that nearly doubled its footprint, grew the museum’s holdings from 12,000 objects to more than 21,000, and maintained its free admission policy.
“It’s been quite remarkable—the way he has spearheaded so many changes, culminating in the building of the new building” that opened in 2011, Gene Phillips, chair of the UW-Madison art history department, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “In addition to the fundraising, he also paid a lot of attention to the design elements, the materials. So I think it’s really quite an achievement.”
Panczenko praises the university for giving him free reign with the art museum. “The university was very supportive of my endeavors,” he said. “Basically, I was told, ‘Hey, if you can raise the money, go for it.’ That’s unusual, and it was great.”
Born in Germany, Panczenko relocated to a Ukrainian community in Connecticut. He earned his bachelor’s degree in the classics from Fairfield University and his doctorate in art history from the University of Florence, Italy, in 1979. Prior to joining the museum, he was assistant director at the Williams College Museum of Art. Panczenko said that he hopes retirement will give him more time to travel and pursue his hobby of photography.