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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces the Appointment of New Deputy Director and Senior Director

Left: Sandy Edwards, Right: Jill Wager
Left: Sandy Edwards, Right: Jill Wager

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the appointments of Sandy Edwards as senior director, and Jill Wagar as deputy director, effective immediately.

“We have seen Crystal Bridges and Momentary teams strengthen at a time when we are all managing extraordinary challenges,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer. “With Sandy and Jill’s new roles, we have the opportunity to look toward the next decade with a new strategic plan process and an increase on fundraising efforts to support innovative new initiatives.”

Sandy Edward

Sandy Edwards’ career exemplifies her deep commitment during her 46-year career to improving quality of life through arts and education. Stepping into her new role as senior director, Edwards will be refining her focus and pursuing significant initiatives to transform the institution into the future.

Edwards joined the museum in 2007, playing a vital role in the conception, planning, building and opening of Crystal Bridges.  She was instrumental in the establishment of endowments for the museum’s operations, acquisitions, and capital improvements, as well as grants that provide free admission to the museum and underwrite the costs of school visits.  Serving as deputy director, she has overseen departments responsible for growth in audiences, promoting access, fundraising, community development, and creating a national presence for the museum.

Prior to Crystal Bridges, Edwards and her late husband, Clay, served as the management team for University of Arkansas’ development program directing the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century.  At Penn State University, she created the first comprehensive advancement program in the field of continuing and distance education at a university, where she held a post from 1992 to 1998.  Prior to her involvement in university development, she was recognized nationally for her work in the fields of major concert promotion, and performing arts.

As an advocate of access to quality education, Edwards served as a trustee on the board of her alma mater, Lenoir Rhyne College; received the Penn State’s Outreach Pioneer Award for Distance Education; was named honorary alumna of the University of Arkansas; and received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and Distinguished Alumna Award from Western Illinois University where she received a master’s degree.

“I am so pleased we can align this new position with Sandy’s passion, skills, and dedication to strategically matching funders with key projects,” said Bigelow. “Sandy has been and continues to be a guiding force in our institution, creating meaningful connections to arts, cultural, and educational offerings.”

Jill Wagar

Jill Wagar, who has been serving as chief strategy officer, has dedicated 25 years to working in nonprofit leadership in the arts, higher education, and healthcare. With this promotion to deputy director, Wagar will assume more institutional leadership, guide the next strategic plan, maintain oversight of development, membership, database operations, audience research teams, and continue her ongoing fundraising efforts.

Wagar joined Crystal Bridges before its public opening in 2011, and as director of advancement, she established the framework to receive private gift support and annual museum memberships. Wagar was named chief strategy officer in 2015, where she led the development and execution of the museum’s strategic plan and aligned the plan with national and international philanthropic resources. When COVID-19 caused the museum to temporarily close in 2020, Wagar led the reopening plans to welcome visitors back to a safe environment. She serves as a key advisor and participant in the museum’s diversity and inclusion initiatives to create a more just and equitable workplace, institution, and community.

Prior to Crystal Bridges, Wagar was the associate vice president for development and communications at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Ark., where she led the institution’s first comprehensive capital campaign and managed the college’s public image. A native of Tulsa, Okla., she holds a degree in marketing and public relations from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and a Certified Fundraising Executive accreditation. She has been recognized by the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Executives as an Outstanding Fundraiser and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her in the 2008 class of 40 Under 40. 

“Jill’s commitment to planning and setting museum-wide goals, coupled with her passion for our mission, thoughtful approach, and strong community relationships, perfectly position her for this significant role as deputy director,” said Bigelow.