Parent couple bring art expertise to Faulconer Gallery Leadership Council

Dec. 10, 2018 — When Faulconer Gallery Director Lesley Wright previously met art enthusiastic parents of Grinnell College students, there hadn’t been a way to engage them.

That changed in the fall of 2015 with the creation of the Faulconer Gallery Leadership Council. Parents who serve on the council can come to Grinnell for meetings and see their son or daughter the same weekend.

“Council members find the camaraderie and the friendships to be one of the most valuable parts of it,” Wright says. “They are building a network of Grinnellians or people that care about Grinnell.”

Stephen and Karen Clark
    Karen and Stephen Clark

That’s true for Stephen and Karen Clark, parents of John Clark ’19. Stephen is vice president and general counsel for the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles. The couple previously lived in New York, where Karen worked for Sotheby’s, and then had a shop that sold furniture to decorators. Karen often designed custom pieces or worked with craftsmen to create custom work.

“The council is made up of really great people who I’ve enjoyed getting to know,” Karen says.

She said that John is delighted to have his parents serve on the council.

“He was born and raised with parents that were involved in the arts,” she says. “It’s a natural for him. He so fondly thinks of Grinnell that he likes our energy there as well.”

Cultivating a council

Anchoring the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, the Faulconer Gallery presents exhibitions of regional, national, and international significance. The gallery serves the educational mission of the College while also giving students and the public the chance to interact with a diverse range of contemporary and historical art.

The council was started to deepen connections with alumni and friends interested in arts and museums by seeking their strategic expertise, advocacy, and engagement.

Serving along with the Clarks on the council are Scott Beth, David Braman ’75, Peter Daniolos, Jay Dick ’95, Theresa Duncan ’01, Lois Fingerman, Keith Jantzen ’80, and Daniel Malarkey ’08.

As an advisory body, the council helps the gallery staff identify needs for resources, programs, space, and staffing, and seeks solutions that strengthen best practices. Council members also providing networking, mentoring opportunities, and philanthropic support.

Grinnell students take notes for an art project at the Faulconer Gallery.
Grinnell students take notes for an art project at the Faulconer Gallery.

The council meets twice a year on campus with occasional forays to other parts of the country. Last spring, they met in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they toured two university art museums. They also attended a boutique event at the Burning Man where council members met College Trustees and other alumni.

“When we started none of us exactly knew how the council would benefit the gallery,” Wright says. “I’m finding the council is of great strategic benefit to us. We throw out ideas and get a lot of good input and feedback. The longer the council is in existence, the more I can see how people with certain kinds of expertise will be really useful.”

Strong arts presence

Wright says the Clarks help the council stay grounded and can give a peer perspective. Prior to being hired by the Getty Trust, Stephen Clark was deputy general counsel at The Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1994 to 2008. He was president of the Museum Association of New York and a member of the Board of the California Museum Association.

“I’ve been impressed with the quality of the leadership,” Stephen Clark says. “Lesley has a lot of good ideas about the gallery and its relationship to the College. She articulates the ideas quite well. The members of the council are remarkably energetic, talented, and devoted to the College. I think a strong arts presence is important for a great liberal arts college like Grinnell. The Leadership Council is supportive of all that gallery does and what it could do in the future.”

Wright was in LA in early October to lend a piece to an exhibition at the Hammer Museum, and Karen hosted her while she was in town.

“Karen has a great eye and a real passion for art,” Wright says. “She brings a lot to the table. I’m happy to have a few other museum and fine arts professionals on the council because they understand the realities of a lot of our issues.”

With matching funds from the Getty, the Clarks have also contributed $50,000 to the Leadership Council’s Public Art Fund. Former council member Nick Glass ’87 and his wife, MJ Baumann, gave a gift to start the fund to make art more present on campus outside of the gallery. Several other council members followed suit with their own gifts. There is now $67,500 in the fund. Wright said they are just starting the process of thinking what that money could be used for.

"It’s exciting that we have alumni who are wanting to be engaged in this way with the arts,” Wright says. “We appreciate their counsel, time, gifts, and enthusiasm.”

Karen says the donation fits in well with conversations the council has had about expanding art on campus.

“I’m from a family that believes in being philanthropic in education,” Karen says. “It’s a natural to provide that. It’s also easy to give because our son likes the school so much.”

“John has had really terrific professors and great experience in classes,” Stephen adds. “He studied abroad, which was helpful. He has a terrific circle of friends. It’s funny for a young man who grew up in Manhattan and West Los Angeles to suddenly be in the middle of Iowa, but he’s really loved it there. It was the right place for him.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

See what current exhibitions are on display at the Faulconer Gallery and learn more about the gallery. If you are interested in serving on the Leadership Council, please contact Lesley Wright at or 641-269-4642.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.