Catalina Island Museum announces staff promotions

Courtesy Photo Johnny Sampson and Gail Fornasiere were recently promoted to new positions.

Gail Fornasiere now deputy director of External Affairs; Johnny Sampson is now deputy director and chief curator

As the Catalina Island Museum begins its search to replace its outgoing executive director, the Museum has announced the promotions of Gail Fornasiere to deputy director of External Affairs and Johnny Sampson to deputy director and chief curator among other promotions within the museum staff.

“After five years at the Museum, Julie Perlin Lee left on the best of terms and left the museum in great hands,” said Catalina Island Museum Boar Chairman Ron Bevins.

“We are finally open, have a wonderful group of exhibitions including the amazing Titanic: Real Artifacts, Real People, Real Stories and have a full year of in person and virtual events on the calendar,” Bevins said.

“In our search to replace Lee, we intend to identify a leader for this great staff that will continue our ongoing goal of interacting with our community here in Avalon as well as our many members, friends, and visitors from all around the world,” said Bevins.

“Our search team has identified and are talking to a strong list of potential candidates, and we are confident that we can locate the perfect match for the museum and this special island. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you at the museum,” said Bevins.

• Fornasiere, formerly the museum’s director of Marketing and Public Relations, has been promoted to Deputy Director of External Affairs.

In her new role, she will continue to manage the marketing of the museum while overseeing and working closely with the finance, development, membership departments as well as visitor services and the Museum Store.

Since joining the museum in 2007, she has served the museum in various roles. She holds valuable institutional knowledge and an acute understanding of the museum’s operations and role in the community. Prior to joining the museum, Fornasiere represented a number of professional artists in Minneapolis, MN and taught part-time at her alma mater, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

• Sampson joined the museum in September of 2019 as the Director of Exhibitions. He has curated and overseen special exhibitions such as Catalina Paintings: Night & Day, Frida Kahlo: Through the Eyes of Nickolas Muray, Soot and Water: Gyotaku Records of Catalina, Gayle Garner Roski: Journey to the Titanic and the popular Titanic: Real Artifacts, Real People, Real Stories. Sampson is now Deputy Director and Chief Curator. He will continue to develop world-class special exhibitions while overseeing all educational programs, events, facilities and maintenance.

Before joining the museum, Sampson worked as a curator and arts professional, working closely with artists, collectors, and institutions to create powerful exhibitions and strategic collections. Most recently he served as a consultant with CK Contemporary in San Francisco, working to build exhibitions and promote the cultural legacy of emergent and established contemporary artists and mid-century masters. Prior to that, he served as the Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager at Pro Arts Gallery & Commons in Oakland.

Sampson helped steward the organization during its transition from a regional arts center into an internationally-acclaimed, multi-use space for art, debate, and collaboration — serving an independent community of experimental local and international artists and performers.

• Kellie Costello’s title has been changed to better reflect her important role at the museum. She is now the Programs and Events Coordinator.

In this role she leads and assists with booking, planning, organizing and executing museum-wide event programming and internal activities at the museum or at off-site locations.

She is responsible for organizing the museum’s annual fundraiser and travel opportunities with the museum. She is also in charge of renting the museum space.

In addition to the event coordination, she also has years of bookkeeping and office management experience and has worked for the museum since 2017.

• Patty Salazar has also been promoted to Registration and Collections Manager.

Her role is to produce and maintain all collections-related documents and data management records pertaining to the museum’s collection.

She is involved with all acquisitions, donations, loans and accessions, plus condition reporting, insurance and storage. She will be seeking qualified volunteers to help work in the museum’s permanent collection

Staff members Erin Bray, Finance Associate, Alyssandra Nighswonger, Visitor Services and Retail Manager and Susie Reaves, Office Administrator remain steadfast in their roles to further the museum’s vision and mission.

The museum is open and welcoming visitors Wednesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at reduced capacity with enhanced health and safety precautions to ensure the safety of all. For more information, please visit

To stay connected and enjoy the museum’s virtual programming during this time, follow the museum’s social media platforms @CatalinaMuseum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum offers the best in art and history exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film.

The museum is located in the heart of Avalon at 217 Metropole Ave. For more information, call 310-510-2414 or visit