HMA Announcing New Leadership

Jon Carfagno has been named the museum’s new Executive Director

Jon Carfagno has been named the museum’s new Executive Director

The Hickory Museum of Art has announced a leadership team for the museum that consists of a new Executive Director and a newly formed Associate Director position.  The museum is proud to announce that Jon Carfagno has been named the museum’s new Executive Director, and Clarissa Starnes has been promoted to the position of Associate Director.  In addition to these changes, the museum’s current bookkeeper, Mary Johnson, has been promoted to the position of Business Manager.

Carfagno succeeds Lisë Swensson, who announced her retirement in 2016 and will leave after 13 successful years as the museum’s Executive Director. Carfagno will assume his role at the Hickory Museum of Art on April 1st, 2017. He was selected after a national search overseen by a committee appointed by the museum’s Board.

After serving internships at museums in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Berlin, Jon Carfagno joined the Education Department of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas in 2005. He grew in his role to become the School Programs Manager, where he planned and administered all the professional development and curriculum initiatives for K-12 educators.  He then joined the Grand Rapids Art Museum in June 2009 to serve as their Director of Learning and Audience Engagement.  He led numerous initiatives that brought local, statewide and national recognition to the museum during his time. For instance, Design Briefs, an entrepreneurial start up incubator program he created in collaboration with thought leaders from the West Michigan technology community, was featured on both an internationally attended webinar and the Alliance of American Museum’s Center for the Future of Museums website.

Currently, Jon serves as the Vice President of the Board for the Museum Education Roundtable a national board that publishes the Journal of Museum Education.  He led the Education Department at GRAM in receiving the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Art Education Association in 2013. Last fall, he was invited to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, to participate with a group of art museum education department leaders to envision a professional services organization designed to support of the future of leadership in the field.

A frequent speaker on the topics of human centered design, methods of innovation, and organizational theory, Mr. Carfagno is most actively concerned about museum futures, sustainability, and inclusion. He holds an M.A. in Art History with a Distinction from the University of Massachusetts and completed Kendall College of Art and Design’s MBA Certificate Program in Design and Innovation Management.

“We are very excited to have Jon serve as the fifth Executive Director of the Hickory Museum of Art,” said Alan Jackson, President of the Board.  “He is a true visionary who understands how to create a level of engagement between an art museum and the community it serves.  He will bring to the Hickory area a wealth of experiences and knowledge that will serve the museum very well in the years to come.  We are happy to welcome Jon, his wife Megan, and their children to the Hickory area and look forward to them becoming an integral part of our community.”

Jon is married to Megan Carfagno, and they have two children.

“There are so many exciting developments happening in Catawba County right now. My family and I could not be happier about this opportunity to contribute to the growth and new directions that are underway” said Carfagno.  “One of the museum’s generous supporters, Barry Huffman, once said, ‘art can be a tool to see the world around us in more innovative and creative ways.’ I am grateful to be joining a team that has a strong history of community-focused programming and look forward to working with them to continue making the museum a marketplace of bold new ideas.”

Clarissa Starnes has served as the Collections and Shop HMA Manager of the Hickory Museum of Art since 2015.  During her time at the museum, Starnes has focused on promoting and enhancing publicity of local artists through festivals, exhibitions, and the museum store.  She has several years of experience as an Art for All Coordinator with the museum, teaching art lessons and planning art projects for a variety of members in the surrounding community.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Visual Arts from Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she graduated with First Honors, was on the President’s List for each of the years of her enrollment, and received the Margaret A. Berry Art Award for several years in a row.

Starnes will serve as the Associate Director for the Hickory Museum of Art, where she will focus on the management of museum operations and opportunities to engage a larger and diverse audience to the organization’s events, exhibitions, and festivals.  She will also continue to serve as Collections Manager for the large selection of artwork currently owned by the museum.  She will assume this role and responsibility on April 1st, 2017.

Mary Johnson has been with the museum since 2002, serving in several roles including Membership Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, and her current role as Bookkeeper and Office Manager.  She holds an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration, and has over 30 years of bookkeeping experience.

In her new role as Business Manager, Johnson will continue to manage the financial aspects of the museum but will also assume responsibilities for other business-related aspects of the museum.

“With Jon serving as Executive Director, Clarissa serving as Associate Director, and Mary’s new role as Business Manager, we feel that the Hickory Museum of Art has the right leadership team to continue its tradition of success and positive impact in the Hickory and Catawba County area,” said Linda Greenwell, Chairman of the Executive Director Search Committee.  “We are very appreciative of Lisë’s excellent leadership of the museum for the last 13 years, and feel confident that the new leadership team will continue the work she started.”


About the Hickory Museum of Art
The Hickory Museum of Art is an art museum in downtown Hickory, North Carolina that holds exhibitions, events, and public educational programs based on a permanent collection of 19th through 21st century American art.  The museum also features a long-term exhibition of Southern contemporary folk art, showcasing the work of self-taught artists from around the region. The Hickory Museum of Art is North Carolina’s second oldest museum, established in 1944 by local artist Paul Whitener.  The museum’s permanent collection includes over 2,000 art objects, ranging from Hudson River School paintings, American art pottery, Glass Art, High-Speed Photography, and the work of regional artists.