Palisadian Nancy Ganiard Smith Leads Organized Art Tours

By Jessie Levine 
Special to the Palisades News

Palisadian Nancy Ganiard Smith, a travel associate with Art Muse LA, clearly has an eye for art and beauty. She shares this vision with fellow art and travel enthusiasts on trips she leads in collaboration with her long-time colleague, Clare Kunny.

“Art Muse LA began in 2012 and I joined the organization in 2013 to launch the travel program,” Smith said. “Clare modeled Art Muse after a similar organization she’d admired in Paris, one with a team of art historians at the ready to offer distinctive cultural tours.”

Nancy Ganiard Smith organizes art tours to locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Nancy Ganiard Smith organizes art tours to locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Both Smith and Kunny have prolific backgrounds in the art world—the two met while serving as directors of programs at the Art Institute of Chicago, and coincidentally both landed in art- and sunlight-drenched Los Angeles.

After relocating to Pacific Palisades in 1998, Smith spent some time as a journalist covering the cultural beat for the Palisadian-Post, under Lifestyle Editor Libby Motika.

More recently, Smith held the position of Docent Council Chair at LACMA, and currently gives public tours at LACMA and as a docent at the Getty Center.

Her current role with Art Muse LA allows her artistic expertise to light the way for others, as she takes participants on organized trips to locations in the U.S. and abroad that are rich with art history, some obvious and some not so obvious.

The maiden journey to Mexico City sparked a wave of tours following its success, including trips to Detroit, Chicago and Spain. It certainly seems glamorous, yet as Smith explains: “The combination of art and travel is so seductive, but it is work—we handle hotels, meals and transportation. A tremendous amount of work and detail goes into it.”

Part of the beauty of experiencing art away from home is the intimacy of the group and the unusual nature of some of the destinations. Smith’s trips accept between 10 and 15 travelers, and the itineraries include off- the-beaten-path attractions, in addition to the long-standing gems of art history.

The recent trip to Detroit, for example, explored the artistic renaissance of the Midwestern city through Art Deco architectural landmarks, up-and-coming artists’ studios, and some of the great murals of Diego Rivera at the Art Institute of Detroit.

Participant experiences are based on location, but generally include privileged access to museums, galleries, private collections and artist studios, as well as forays into the local cuisine of the place, all conducted from comfortable and stylish hotels.

“The great moments are with the guests, as like-minded souls are eager to soak up everything on these trips,” Smith said, noting that the luxurious nature of both traveling and looking at works of art provides an immersive experience for participants.

Even the not-so-glamourous moments can provide memorable experiences. On one trip to Mexico City, the group boarded a flat-bottomed boat to observe the floating gardens throughout the area’s historic canals. A powerful, unexpected thunderstorm soaked them to the core, but as Smith notes,“The experience forever bonded our group. Mishaps like this can be the glue in a funny sort of way.”

In 2017, Art Muse LA trips will take enthusiasts to Texas, Mexico City/Oaxaca, Spain (Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga) and New York (Manhattan and the Hudson River Valley). Visit for more information. 

Smith is married to Kevin Smith, a commercial director, and they have lived here for 18 years. Their daughter, Hannah, is a talent manager in New York City.

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