Director of the Art Museum
Joyce Ice, Director of the Art Museum, joined the WVU community in January 2009, bringing extensive experience in the museum field, including the building of a new wing and developing and programming a new museum plaza for the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she was director for nine years. The opportunity to build and open a new art museum at her alma mater drew her back across the country to her home state. As Director of the Museum of International Folk Art for nine years, she oversaw numerous international exhibitions and accompanying publications, as well as an award-winning school program. She edited a collection of essays, On Collecting: From Private to Public, published by the University of Washington Press (2009). Ice holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and folklore from the University of Texas, Austin. She serves as an accreditation site reviewer with the American Alliance of Museums. At WVU, she was project director for two Teacher Institutes, and currently, is project director for a media grant on Self-Taught Artists of Appalachia.
“Museums offer a place for people to interact with art and one another,” Ice says. “We want people to feel at home and to be energized and inspired by the creativity and skill that they encounter at the museum.”
Curator of the Art Museum
Robert Bridges, Curator of the Art Museum, earned his MFA in printmaking at WVU. Since 2000, he has organized exhibits in the Mesaros Galleries at the College of Creative Arts. Among them are the international exhibition “Ceramic Art from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute” and two national exhibitions featuring the work of American Modernist Blanche Lazzell, a West Virginia native. Bridges is a co-editor of the book Blanche Lazzell, The Life and Work of an American Modernist (2004) from WVU Press. Previously, he was a curator in the private sector in Chicago.
Valerie M. Wright
Museum Registrar and Collection Manager
Valerie M. Wright, Museum Registrar and Collection Manager, joined the staff in January 2010. She comes to WVU from Brandeis University having worked at the Rose Art Museum as the Collections Manager and Registrar. Her educational background includes Museum Studies and collection management-focused internships, including one at Harvard Art Museums in Massachusetts. At the Rose Art Museum, Wright managed a contemporary art collection of over 7,000 pieces and the Student Loan collection, coordinated nine exhibitions per year, and also taught undergraduate and graduate student internships.
Michael Loop, Museum Preparator, earned his BFA in sculpture at WVU in 1998. Upon graduation Michael traveled around the United States assisting several artists, to include Albert Paley, Christopher Weed, Paul Knoblauch, and several other artists, honing a multi-faceted understanding of material and process. After a 12-year sabbatical from academia, Michael returned to WVU under the guidance of a fresh faculty to receive his MFA in sculpture in 2013. After receiving his degree, Michael worked as an adjunct lecturer between WVU and Fairmont State University teaching Foundations and Sculpture Art classes along with preparatory duties at the Mesaros Galleries for the Creative Art Center at WVU. With a growing personal exhibition record, Michael has shown his artwork in galleries and public art forums across the United States which has further aided his understanding of preparatory practices.
Educational Programs Manager
Heather Harris, Educational Programs Manager, has worked in arts education in a wide variety of contexts, both nationally and internationally. Her background is in drama education, and she holds an MA from New York University in Educational Theatre. She became interested in the art museum context while conducting research for her PhD (in progress) on the connections between schools and arts organizations. This led her to a position as the Education Coordinator at Krannert Art Museum in Champaign Illinois. There Harris taught and administrated school programs, including a recurring week-long residency for 3rd-5th graders at Krannert. She is excited to forge similarly robust partnerships with K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and the larger community in her home state of West Virginia.
Liza L. KirkAbel
Liza L. KirkAbel, Facilities Manager, is a native of West Virginia and a graduate of Concord University with a BS degree in Recreation and Tourism Management and a Master of Arts degree from California University of Pennsylvania in Tourism Planning and Development. She has spent most of her career working in Housing & Residence Life at colleges and universities in West Virginia. Her passion for the park system and the outdoors led her to complete the SLET academy for the National Park Service and most recently to work for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Section, as a Park Superintendent in Southern West Virginia.
Andrea Eridani, Administrative Associate, joined the museum in October 2015. She earned her BA in Studio Art from Sweet Briar College, with a concentration in drawing, and completed an internship assisting the curator of a fine arts center in Lynchburg, Virginia. She has worked in administrative and customer support roles in healthcare at the University of Virginia and the WVU Research Corporation. Additionally, she volunteered for Piedmont Council for the Arts in Charlottesville from 2007-2008. As an artist, she has exhibited in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia. She is thrilled to be working for the museum where she can bring her versatility and passion for the arts to WVU and the community.