JONESBORO – As Les Christensen wraps up her work as director of Bradbury Art Museum, Jacqueline Brightwell is stepping forward as the new director, continuing the quality exhibitions and educational programs that have come to characterize BAM.
Christensen is retiring from Arkansas State University following a 21-year career that includes serving as director of the arts facility, known since 2015 as Bradbury Art Museum, in Fowler Center.
Brightwell has worked closely with Christensen the past six years, most recently serving as assistant director. She is eager to carry on the museum's established traditions of quality programming and public service.
"Working with Les has been an invaluable privilege, and I share in her passion for Bradbury Art Museum and the visual arts," Brightwell said. "I feel honored and very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue BAM’s mission. We’re approaching our fifth anniversary as an art museum and this will certainly be an exciting time for BAM."
Christensen, who has guided the growth and development of the museum since its founding, reflected on her time at A-State.
"It has been a tremendous and rewarding experience to serve as director of Bradbury Art Museum," Christensen commented. "Without our founders Curt and Chucki Bradbury’s generosity and vision for the future, this opportunity and the benefits it has and will continue to provide would not have been possible. I also am very thankful that so many artists, individuals and institutions have been incredibly generous with their time and willingness to loan and donate high quality works of art to BAM."
Dr. Carl Cates, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, of which Fowler Center and Bradbury Art Museum are part, commended Christensen's leadership and impact on the arts.
"Rarely an individual passes through an area that leaves a truly indelible change for good. I believe Les Christensen is that person for Northeast Arkansas," Cates said. "Her collaborations with the Bradbury family and the Windgate Foundation have improved our region and its access to the visual arts. We are in her debt."
Cates is promoting Brightwell to serve as museum director because of her excellent work as assistant director.
Brightwell began working at BAM in August 2013 while finishing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. After she became a full-time staff member as a graphic designer in 2015, one of her first projects was helping establish Bradbury Art Museum's visual identity. She was promoted to assistant director in 2017.
Christensen also recognized the Windgate Foundation, which provided crucial support in the 2015 transition to art museum and hiring additional staff. She expressed appreciation to Kays Foundation, the late James and Wanda Lee Vaughn, and the Stella Boyle Smith Foundation for endowment gifts, and to the Brown Foundation and the Rea Foundation for generous support for educational outreach programming.
"These, together with many individuals, have allowed us to make significant strides towards integrating the visual arts into the fabric and culture of our community," she continued. Noting the outstanding university staff members with whom she has worked, she added, "I have had the pleasure to interact with a group of colleagues who have been supportive, thoughtful, hard-working and most importantly, dear friends."
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