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VIPs at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

By Tracy Rogers

This article was published November 5, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.

Case Dighero, director of culinary services at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonv...

Jennifer Dunham is the Volunteer Services Manager for Crystal Bridges.

Scott Eccleston, director of grounds and trails at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Ben...

David Houston, curatorial director for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Barbara Lenhardt is the Retail Operations Manager for Crystal Bridges.

Niki Ciccotelli Stewart is the Director of Education for Crystal Bridges.

Catherine Petersen is the Library Director for Crystal Bridges.

Kathryn Robers is the Director of Member and Guest Serves for Crystal Bridges.

Case Dighero

TITLE: Director of Culinary Services

ABOUT THE JOB: I oversee the culinary program at the museum. First and foremost, that is the restaurant, Eleven. Then, we have our catering department, and within that, we have a beautiful, dynamic space that’s called the Great Hall. We also have an initiative called edible responsibility, and we are trying to do everything to celebrate and promote local food culture.

EXPERIENCE: I consider myself a professional “foodie.” I had a little cooking show on the Jones Network called “Bring the Cuisine,” and I’m the food editor for Cityscapes magazine. I also owned Soul Restaurant in Fayetteville and was a product development manager for Market Foods during their expansion into Chicago and Tulsa.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in communications, University of Arkansas. Studied at the Culinary Institute of America.

FAVORITE ARTWORK IN THE COLLECTION: John Stuart Ingle’s The Tomato Jar. The painting sort of encapsulates what we are on the food and culinary side of Crystal Bridges because it’s a really bright Mason jar with stewed tomatoes. To me it’s just dripping with southern inspiration, and it’s bigger than life.

Jennifer Dunham

TITLE: Volunteer Services Manager

ABOUT THE JOB: I make sure everyone understands the role of volunteers at the museum, and that we are all identifying volunteer opportunities. I feel like I’m the ambassador and cheerleader for volunteers!

EXPERIENCE: I’ve been a social worker for the state of Oklahoma, and then I worked for a lobbying organization for state employees. Later, I helped connect children who had developmental delays with resources in the community. In Bentonville, at the Northwest Arkansas Head Start, part of my work with children with disabilities was to oversee the volunteer program.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, Oklahoma State University. Certification in volunteer management, state of Arkansas.

FAVORITE ARTWORK IN THE COLLECTION: I’m a fan of [Norman Rockwell’s] Rosie the Riveter. I think what she embodies of the American spirit is beyond words. Just the robustness of female strength and resilience is there in that image and what it represents. I’m a patriotic person, and I think that’s going to be a huge draw for anyone who comes to the museum.

Scott Eccleston

TITLE: Director of Grounds and Trails

ABOUT THE JOB: Something that I do everyday is direct a talented group of individuals from horticulturists to irrigation techs to maintain about 120 acres. I manage, I design and we install. We decided a few years back to build a trail, and three years later we have six trails.

EXPERIENCE: At 15 years old, I started to work for a small nursery in Bartlesville, Okla. By the time I was 18 years old, I was the managing foreman for the grounds of the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Bartlesville. Then, I worked for National Park Service at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore. I co-owned a landscape company for about 13 years.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, Oklahoma State University.

FAVORITE ART MOVEMENT OR STYLE: I’m a huge backpacker. Since I love hiking the Buffalo River trails and the Ozark Highland Trails, the very first time I saw a piece by Thomas Hart Benton I said “I’ve been there” even though it was somewhere else. It looked like a window into the Ozarks.

David Houston

TITLE: Director of Curatorial

ABOUT THE JOB: There are several curators here, and we work together. Each of us has a different focus, and we often work as a team on interpretation and the many aspects of the collection. For the grand opening, each of us has an area in which we’re taking the lead.

EXPERIENCE: I worked as a visual arts program director for the state arts council in South Carolina. I was a university faculty member for 10 years in the United States and also taught near Berlin, Germany. I have been an art gallery coordinator and curator, and organized exhibitions. For the last decade, I’ve worked in New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which was a new startup 10 years ago. Crystal Bridges is the third institution where I’ve been involved with the startup phase.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history, University of South Carolina.

FAVORITE IN THE COLLECTION: The James Turrell “skyspace” would definitely be one. We have a couple of Martin Johnson Heade landscapes from the 19th century that are fairly small in scale, but they’re very luminous and very atmospheric. The 19th century landscape tradition is at the very heart of American art.

Barbara Lenhardt

JOB TITLE: Retail Operations Manager

ABOUT THE JOB: Retail operations are an extension of the museum experience, so after visitors have experienced all of the art, they come into the store. They might see a poster or a print. They might see a magnet or a postcard. They’ll see fabulous jewelry by artists from all over the world. We’ll also have a section that focuses on regional artists.

EXPERIENCE: I was in charge of retail operations at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Previous to working in museums, I had my own retail store for 15 years.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in transcultural studies, Montclair State University; master’s degree in retail management, Longwood University.

WHY I CHOSE CRYSTAL BRIDGES: What really intrigued me most was the idea of a museum being built from the ground up. At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I had come on board and taken a position that was already there. In our lifetimes, there are very few museums that are build from the ground up.

Niki Ciccotelli Stewart

TITLE: Director of Education

ABOUT THE JOB: My role is to oversee all educational programming for the museum. One area is programming for the public, things like lectures, workshops and classes that your whole family can come and do. The second area is school programming, designed to connect with teachers and students while they’re in the classroom. The third area is interpretation, and that is helping the public connect with the art by offering different ways of explaining it.

EXPERIENCE: I’ve been a practicing, hired artist for over 20 years. I’ve been a teacher the entire time as well. The other relevant experience I have is as a teacher. I taught in public schools for nine years. I was a teacher at the Walt Disney Company as well. I taught at the Disney Institute.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in illustration with a minor in photography, Ringling College of Art and Design.

FAVORITE ART MOVEMENT OR STYLE: Because my degree is in illustration, I’m naturally drawn to narrative works that tell a story. We have a few amazing paintings in the collection that really do tell a story. Those are the ones that I am most drawn to.

Catherine Peterson

TITLE: Library Director

ABOUT THE JOB: There is a large library collection that totals about 55,000 items, and this is not only books. There are also smaller items like ephemera and magazines. Right off the bat, I needed to organize that collection, and that is really how I’ve been spending my last year.

EXPERIENCE: For about 24 years, I taught art history at community colleges and various universities. I’ve taught studio art as well. I was the interim director of the Albright Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Mo. I was an academic librarian at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in graphic design and photography, University of Missouri at Kansas City; master’s degree in art history with an emphasis in American art, University of Missouri at Kansas City; master’s degree in library science, University of Tucson.

FAVORITE ART MOVEMENT OR STYLE: One of my favorite periods is abstract expressionism. I grew up around Kansas City, so I of course I love Thomas Hart Benton. Really for me, it’s about how each of the works of art here will inspire guests to come up to the library and learn more.

Kathryn Roberts

TITLE: Director of Member and Guest Services

ABOUT THE JOB: I’ve been creating and launching our membership program and creating our guest services program. That includes all of the front of house experiences, customer service training and making sure that all of our systems flow smoothly.

EXPERIENCE: This is my third museum. I’ve worked at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and also at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. I’ve also worked in higher education at Emory University.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in communications, Rollins College.

FAVORITE IN THE COLLECTION: I love John Singleton Copley’s portrait, Mrs. Theodore Atkinson Jr., because of the elegance and beauty of the fabric but also because he’s from the Boston area. I’ve been to Copley Plaza, and it just resonates with me. I’m a traditionalist.

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