Jessica Lenehan’s goals are simple: to welcome more visitors and artists to the Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center.
As the new curator of ASC’s collections and exhibitions, her goals also include starting meaningful and relevant conversations – both heavy and light – and being as diverse as possible in the exhibitions.
And maybe discover a few overlooked artistic gems along the way.
Lenehan started with ASC on September 13, preparing the Pine Bluff Art League exhibit as his first project.
“It was an opportunity for me to show them what I can do.… It was a great experience,” said Lenehan.
Crystal Jennings, Arts League digital media specialist, said it was a pleasure working with Lenehan on the 2021 Pine Bluff Art League exhibit. This year’s annual event featured 21 pieces.
“It was beautifully organized and hooked up, making it an exceptional show,” Jennings said.
With the Art League exhibit behind her, Lenehan is working on an exhibit by Puerto Rican-born artist Virmarie DePoyster. It opens on October 28.
DePoyster, who started work on the “Beyond Labels | Más Allá De Las Etiquetas ”, with former curator Chaney Jewell, completed the project with Lenehan.
The North Little Rock artist describes Lenehan as intelligent, talented, and able to understand her own exhibition goals and help her focus and lead.
Lenehan is not new to the art world, but the native of Paragould comes to ASC with a life of related effort and education.
Her grandmother, Marie George, was a high school art teacher for over 25 years, and Lenehan said, “Basically I started my life as an artist.
George would show his granddaughter that art was a viable career, but Lenehan’s original plan was to teach at a university.
“She has always given of her time to her students and to her community, and I have definitely learned from watching her how much art can have an impact on people’s lives,” she said. of his grandmother.
However, upon entering Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, Lenehan resisted the pursuit of a direct art degree.
“I took a number of different specializations before I landed on painting,” she said.
She graduated from ASU in 2014. After that, Lenehan completed a Master of Arts in Public History, majoring in Museum Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2018.
HIS WORK HISTORY
As a graduate student, Lenehan worked at the Presidential Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock for two years.
For approximately three years, she was assistant curator at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock.
“I helped organize and design their most recent exhibit, ‘Conspicuous Consumption’,” Lenehan said.
It is currently on display.
Jennings said she looks forward to working with Lenehan on future Arts League exhibitions.
“Given her experience at the Historic Arkansas Museum, Jessica will be a tremendous asset to the ASC. I can’t wait to see what she brings to the CAD, ”said Jennings.
His background in painting, coupled with history and museum studies seems to be a perfect mix for ASC.
“We are delighted to have someone of his caliber on our staff,” said Rachel Miller, CSA Executive Director. “She brings a great deal of experience with exhibitions in the care of collections.”
His work at the Arkansas Historical Museum and the Clinton Library was “impressive and we are happy to have him,” Miller said.
Lenehan said she was excited about the opportunity.
PREPARE FOR A FUTURE
While following the CSA’s guiding philosophy of showcasing and bringing together Arkansas and Delta artists of all races, Lenehan said she would like to build on the work done prior to her tenure.
“ASC has an excellent reputation,” Lenehan said.
While covid-19 still slows down the reopening of many institutions, including ASC, Lenehan doesn’t let that stop him from doing his job and achieving his goals.
In the near future, she hopes to reach artists in Southeast Arkansas and showcase their work more, as well as welcome visitors.
These may be from more diverse cultures who now live and work in Arkansas, such as Puerto Rican artist DePoyster or a Pine Bluff artist who is selling his work but has yet to have an exhibition or tour. exhibition in an art gallery or museum.
Lenehan feels she is up to the challenge. When Lenehan visited the ASC campus before her hire, including ARTSpace, she was intrigued by the large glass garage door at the front of the newly renovated building on Main Street.
It looks like a simple garage door, but “When it’s open it seems to say, ‘Come in. I want to capture that feeling. Invite everyone, all of Southeast Arkansas, Lenehan said.