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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces Key Appointments and New Positions

Left: Makele Ndessokia, Middle: Diane Carroll, Right: Clay Bakker
Left: Makele Ndessokia, Middle: Diane Carroll, Right: Clay Bakker

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the appointment of Makele Ndessokia in the museum’s newly -formed role of chief people officer, in addition to the promotions of Diane Carroll, chief communications and marketing officer, and Clay Bakker, director of trails and grounds.

Makele Ndessokia will lead the human resource division of the museum, developing and implementing talent programs for recruitment, onboarding, performance management, training, and empowerment initiatives, toward the goal of fostering learning and growth.  Ndessokia comes to the museum with 14 years of human resource and employee development experience, most recently at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she also served as an adjunct professor, leading a professional development program.

“In our eighth year of operations, Crystal Bridges has grown with a sharpened focus on the mission to welcome all,”said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director, chief diversity and inclusion officer. “Makele brings the energy and experience to work with staff, volunteers, and board members to drive the vision of the organization forward. She will be instrumental in helping us deepen our commitment to creating positive and inclusive experiences.”

Diane Carroll, former director of communications, was recently appointed chief communications and marketing officer. In this new role, Carroll will continue to direct the museum’s creative services, digital media, public relations, and publications teams, with an increased focus on audience outreach and marketing campaigns. Carroll joined Crystal Bridges in 2012, and has directed these in-house teams during a time period in which the museum has gained acclaim within the national arts community and welcomed more than 4.2 million visitors.

“Diane has played an invaluable role in communicating the strategic vision of the museum and developing outreach strategies for a range of audiences across the country,” affirmed Sandy Edwards, deputy director. “She has significantly increased the museum’s visibility and secured its reputation for access and innovation.  She is the consummate professional who will successfully lead the development of creative campaigns, brand awareness, and engaging experiences.”

Ndessokia will join Carroll and other division leaders on the museum’s Strategy Team, which oversees the museum’s vision and initiatives. Searches are underway for additional Strategy Team roles, including chief curator and chief education officer, and a newly created chief operations officer position. Details can be found on the career website here.

Clay Bakker, former trails and grounds manager, has been named trails and grounds director and is responsible for all aspects of the museum’s natural surroundings as well as management of the trails and grounds team.  Bakker, who joined Crystal Bridges in 2011, has overseen the development of the museum’s 120-acre campus, guiding the department in increasing accessibility and activating new areas. Recently, Bakker managed the development of 40 acres of the museum’s North Lawn, North Forest and the North Forest Trail for art installations, exhibitions, and public programs.

“Clay’s expertise in our natural surroundings, including landscaping and sustainability, has seen our grounds through many new projects and successful enhancements,” said Scott Eccleston, director of operations. “Anyone who has walked our trails, enjoyed a Forest Concert, strolled to the Frank Lloyd Wright house, or participated in other nature offerings at Crystal Bridges has experienced Clay’s skills, dedication, and guidance of his exceptional team. He’ll exemplify that leadership and carry the vision forward even further in this new role.”