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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces Appointment of First Windgate Curator of Craft

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be closed Monday, May 13, to prepare for the visit of Antiques Roadshow. We will return to normal hours of operation Wednesday, May 15.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has appointed Jen Padgett as Windgate Curator of Craft, the museum’s first endowed curatorial position.    

Since September 2022, Padgett has served as acting Windgate Curator of Craft, building off the foundations established through her co-curation of the exhibition Crafting America (2021), the slate of craft acquisitions she brought forward under the endowed Fund for Craft, and the development of projects such as the commission of Beth Lipman’s glass sculpture Belonging(s) for the Early American Gallery. 

“I am thrilled we have a strong advocate and authority in Jen for craft’s place front and center across our campus,” said Crystal Bridges Chief Curator Austen Barron Bailly. “Her deep knowledge of our existing collection and institutional mission, her engagement with new objects and ways of thinking centered on craft skills and materials, and her personal enthusiasm for craft all contribute to her motivation to champion the perspectives of artists.” 

During her six-year tenure with Crystal Bridges, Padgett has served as Assistant Curator, then Associate Curator of Modern Art, making numerous contributions to the museum’s modern collection the largest area of the collection and the museum’s exhibition program. She served as venue curator for Diego Rivera’s America (closed July 31) and has curated a range of focus exhibitions including Seeing One Another: New Views on the Alfred Stieglitz Collection (through January 2024), After The Last Supper (2020-21), and Tempera (2019).  

The opportunity to co-curate Crafting America (2021) with renowned scholar Glenn Adamson was the catalyst for Padgett to advance her expertise in modern art and design within the field of craft in new and substantive ways. The exhibition, featuring over 100 works in a broad variety of materials, foregrounded craft’s integral role in expanding the stories of American art. Padgett authored the introductory essay for the accompanying catalogue, published by the University of Arkansas Press, and served as co-editor of the volume. She also worked to identify objects from the exhibition as the foundations for the emerging craft collection with the newly endowed Fund for Craft.  

Additionally, Padgett has successfully advanced major acquisitions for the museum including works by Arlene Shechet, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, Melissa Cody, Linda Lopez, Michael Peterson, Christine Nofchissey McHorse, and George Ohr. Other notable acquisitions include the mid-19th century Storage Jar by the enslaved potter David Drake, now foundational to the stories of the Crystal Bridges galleries. She also led commissions of new work by contemporary artists including Beth Lipman, innovating in glass, and Roberto Lugo, transforming ceramic traditions.  

Padgett’s latest exhibition Takaezu & Tawney: An Artist is a Poet, which opened on October 14, 2023, debuts 12 new acquisitions she spearheaded for the Crystal Bridges collection. Supported by the Windgate Curator of Craft Fund, the exhibition tells the story of a remarkable 50-year friendship between Toshiko Takaezu and Lenore Tawney. The recent acquisitions highlight how the two women shaped craft history in the United States by expanding and redefining the possibilities of their preferred mediums: Takaezu in ceramics and Tawney in weaving. Takaezu & Tawney will be on view in the museum’s Early American Gallery through March 25, 2024.  

Padgett received her master’s degree and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. Her previous experience includes positions and fellowships at a variety of museums including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art.


About Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed more than 10.8 million visitors across its spaces, with no cost for admission. Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 as a non-profit charitable organization by arts patron and philanthropist, Alice Walton. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 300,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and five miles of art and walking trails. In February 2020, the museum opened the Momentary in Downtown Bentonville (507 SE E Street), conceived as a platform for the art, food, and music of our time. In 2026, Crystal Bridges will complete a nearly 100,000 square foot expansion that will allow the museum to expand access for all. For more information, visit The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.