Positive growth for museum under Hightower's leadership

Under his leadership, Chris Hightower has elevated the finances and offerings of Arlington's local art museum

  • Arlington Museum of Art Executive Director Chris Hightower (Courtesy Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
    Arlington Museum of Art Executive Director Chris Hightower (Courtesy Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
Charles Swanigon

Chris Hightower is a volunteer. A volunteer curator, janitor and just about anything you can think of at the Arlington Museum of Art (AMA). Officially, he’s the executive director.

Under his leadership, the museum has broadened its spectrum from local artists and Texas contemporary art to the world’s most transcendent and influential artists of all time.

Raised in Arlington, Hightower said his passion for the arts was passed to him from his father and grandmother. His father was a graphic artist, and he spent his summers bonding with his grandmother while they visited zoos, art museums and other family-oriented attractions.

That passion didn’t wane as he got older. After graduating from Arlington High School, Hightower went on to study art history at Texas Christian University.

After college, Chris joined the Arlington arts community as a member of the AMA Board of Directors. He served on the board from 2005 to 2009 before leaving for a couple of years to serve as a board member at Theatre Arlington. At the behest of AMA Board President Nancy Tice, he returned to the museum and in 2012 was named executive director.

“I call him Superman,” Tice said. Chris knows art better than anybody else I know. We were going in a very simple direction, and we needed to do bigger and better exhibits. He brought the museum back to life.”

Since becoming executive director, he has raised funds to increase the museum’s operating budget from around $85,000 per year to more than $500,000.

The influx of new capital enabled the museum to bring in better artwork. He also changed the time of the year that AMA displays its major exhibits.

“Arlington is setup a little different from other cities,” Hightower said. “Seventy percent of our visitors come from outside Arlington. So we decided to have our most important exhibits during the summer, unlike other museums who have their major exhibits in the winter and fall.”

Those exhibits include the etchings of famed Dutch painter Rembrandt. Work from Frank Lloyd Wright, William H. Johnson, Ansel Adams, ceramics from Picasso and the current exhibit, Salvador Dali’s Visions of Eternity.

“It is important to have this in Arlington for the folks who don’t have the funds or capacity to get to Dallas or Fort Worth,” he said.

The Arlington Museum of Art is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p,m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.. They are closed on major holidays. For more information about the museum visit Arlingtonmuseum.org.

Volunteers and donations are always welcome.

This story is part of the Arlington Voice's 25 Days of Good News series