Lesley Wright has been director of the Faulconer Gallery since May 1999. She oversees the staff, policies and exhibition schedule for both the Faulconer Gallery and the Print and Drawing Study Room. She currently supervises a professional staff of five, and a student staff of gallery desk attendants, program assistants and an intern. She reports to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs.
Wright has a Ph.D. in American art history from Stanford University, where she worked with Wanda Corn. Her dissertation, "Men Making Meaning in Nineteenth-Century American Genre Painting, 1860-1900," explored sentimental scenes of daily life within the context of the men who painted them and the people who collected them. She has since written entries on American genre paintings for several collection catalogues, but otherwise has turned her focus to 20th-century, 21st-century and contemporary art.
Before coming to Grinnell College, Wright was the curator at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art for 6 years, where she curated over 20 major exhibitions and numerous smaller shows. She has taught courses in American and women's art history at Stanford University, San Francisco State, the University of Iowa, and Coe College. Her museum background includes work as the assistant to the director at the University Art Museum at UC Berkeley (now the Berkeley Art Museum) and a Luce Foundation internship at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In 2008, she attended the Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center.
At the Faulconer Gallery, she has curated a number of exhibitions, including the inaugural show, Re-Structure. She co-curated Patient Process and Energy Inside, and coordinated the site-specific installation Positional Play: Joe Mancuso and James von Minor. In 2003, she curated two major exhibitions: Layers of Brazilian Art/Camadas da Arte Brasileira and Roots of Renewal, the former an exhibition of contemporary Brazilian art and the latter an exploration of new ways of looking at and conceptualizing the Midwest. In 2007, she curated Where are you from? Contemporary Portuguese Art with Jane Gilmor from Mount Mercy College, in 2009 she curated Below the Surface: a 21st-century Look at the Prairie, and in 2011 she curated Culturing Community: Projects about Place. She has supported her projects with successful grants from Humanities Iowa, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Portuguese government, and other national and local granting agencies.
In 2004 she was asked by the Art Department to inaugurate a course on museum studies, taught almost every year, to complement the department’s exhibition seminar. In 2012, she offered an interdisciplinary seminar that resulted in the student-curated, collection-based exhibition "Animals Among Us." The Gallery offers an internship each semester, in order to more fully bring the gallery and its operations into the curriculum of the college. In addition, the Gallery offers other student positions in outreach, gallery security, administration, and the collection.
Wright serves on numerous committees on campus and in the community. She is the Iowa representatives for the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, and is currently president of the board of the Grinnell Area Arts Council.