Born: July 23, 1939
Ohio connection: Birth
Manuel Joseph Albacete was born on July 23, 1939 in Canton, Ohio, son of Francisco Albacete (contractor) and Anna Siska Albacete. Most of his life he has lived in Canton, except for a period of eight years when the family resided in Johnstown, PA from 1946 to 1954. After Albacete graduated from McKinley High School (1957), he served two years in the U. S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Essex. During this time tours overseas combined with Albacete’s curiosity to expose him to the arts and culture of Europe and the Middle East. According to Albacete,
“My shipmates were getting drunk, and I was visiting museums.”
After returning to civilian life, Albacete attended classes at Kent State University Stark Campus, transferring to Walsh University where he graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in English. On a graduate assistantship, he attended The University of Akron, where he received his M.A. in English studies in 1974. Shortly after graduation, Albacete accepted a position at the Canton Art Institute (now the Canton Museum of Art) on a two-year grant to do publicity and marketing. During the grant period, he authored Architecture in Canton as a Museum project in collaboration with the Junior League of Canton, and supervised several photo-panel exhibitions on local architecture. At the end of the grant period, he was retained as head of PR and Marketing, and in 1978 was appointed Associate Director; in 1988 he became Executive Director. Albacete played an instrumental role in creating a number of important exhibitions for the Canton Museum of Art, including Ohio Quilts: A Living Tradition; Procession: The Parthenon Frieze; Liberty Enlightening the World; and The Tomb of Tutankhamun photo exhibition. During his 26-year tenure as executive director (1988-2014), Albacete and his staff created a major two-museum collaborative with the Butler Institute of American Art called Clyde Singer’s America (for which he wrote the biographical essay based on his interviews with the artist). In a 2014 interview, Albacete stated, “Our goal was to bring a lot more people from other parts of Ohio and the country.” In recognition of his 39 years of service to the Canton Museum of Art, M. J. Albacete now serves as director emeritus.
Albacete lives in North Canton with his wife Pat, and is very active in the general arts community as a speaker on art, architecture, music, and other topics which interest him. He continues to teach a course in the history of architecture as adjunct professor in the Art Department of Kent State University Stark Campus.
M. J. Albacete has been a museum administrator, arts scholar, music reviewer, educator, writer, photographer, and presenter of public programs on a host of historical and cultural topics. Commenting on his retirement as executive director in a 2014 interview, Albacete stated, “Sometimes, when people retire, they think, ‘You know, I’m history,’ And I don’t want to be history. I like to think of it as another door is opening.”
2009 Ohioana Book Award finalist (About Ohio category) for Clyde Singer’s America.