The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture has hired a new executive director who is expected to take over the helm of the Browne’s Addition institution on March 1.
Wesley P. Jessup, 47, was most recently the director of the Longmont (Colorado) Museum and Cultural Center. After he arrived there in 2011, he ran a successful capital campaign to expand the museum and more than doubled the annual attendance.
He has worked at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and was the founding director of the Pasadena Museum of California Art. He also directed a project to create a cultural center in the Bering Straits region of Alaska, where his job included working with the tribal leaders of 20 villages.
Jessup, an Alaska native, said he was impressed by the museum’s staff and “enchanted” with the museum’s permanent collection, particularly the Native American artifacts.
“What they have there is phenomenal,” he said. “I’m excited about finding ways to bring it out on display more often.”
Museum board member Donna Weaver said the museum put together a search committee that included community members to pick a new director instead of hiring a search firm. The committee reviewed 150 resumes, Weaver said.
She called Jessup “the perfect person for this job,” adding, “Wes just has the perfect background.”
Weaver was impressed by Jessup’s work at the Longmont museum, where he revamped the exhibits and increased annual attendance from 18,000 to over 60,000.
“Some of the exhibits they put together were absolutely amazing,” she said.
The MAC has had a rocky experience with directors in the last few years. Former executive director Forrest Rodgers was fired in 2012, then rehired after a public outcry. He was fired again in early 2016 and the museum has been without a permanent director ever since. Tim Carney, former U.S. ambassador to Sudan and Haiti, was named interim director in December. At the time he said he expected to hold the position for three months.
Jessup said he was aware of the recent history of directors at the museum but said everyone he met seems eager to turn the page.
“Everyone is looking forward,” he said.
He is also looking forward to selecting new exhibits to display and finding ways to highlight historical artists.
“There’s a lot of potential,” Jessup said. “I want to be the leader who takes it to the next level.”