Bigelow, 41, came to Toledo in early 2008 as chief operating officer. In October, he served in the top position while museum board members hunted for a new director. Previous chief Don Bacigalupi left Toledo to lead Crystal Bridges in the far northwest corner of Arkansas.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take an operation from the ground up. It's very exciting and very sad at the same time," said Bigelow, a popular manager who resides in Ottawa Hills with his wife and two daughters. "I feel comfortable leaving because the museum's in great shape, but I can't possibly pass up this opportunity."
Bigelow will manage the business side of the museum being constructed on 100 wooded acres a quarter mile from downtown Bentonville, population 34,000. The site will include spaces for sculpture and concerts, a farm, and a walking/bike path. Its buildings, more than half-completed, will include 200,000 square feet of galleries as well as an auditorium, classrooms, and event areas. Bigelow said he'll also develop policies and practices and hire staff, expected to more than triple from its current level of about 30.
Crystal Bridges is privately funded by the Walton Family Foundation and headed by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.
Toledo's new museum director, Brian Kennedy, will take the reins Sept. 1.