David R. Brigham, Ph.D.
David R. Brigham, Ph.D., is President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the nation’s first museum and first school of fine arts.
Brigham is leading PAFA through a period of growth and vitality. Joining PAFA in 2007 as the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum, he was promoted by the Board of Trustees in 2010 to President and CEO. During that time, PAFA increased its operating budget from $12 million to $20 million, while maintaining a balanced budget each year. Under his leadership, annual attendance has increased from 120,000 to 250,000 visitors; contributions have increased from $2.20 million to more than $5 million per year; scholarship support for PAFA’s art students has risen from $1 million to over $5.0 million annually; and the art collection has grown by more than 3,000 works. PAFA’s entire collection is being digitized and added to the Albert M. Greenfield American Art Resource Online; and PAFA has expanded new educational programs such as Family Arts Academy. PAFA’s campus has been improved with the addition and renovation of more than 50,000 square feet of new programmatic space, including Lenfest Plaza, a new study center for works of art on paper and archives, the Alumni Gallery, the Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery, the Community Education Center, a new café, and a new Arts Center that will open in 2019. During Brigham’s tenure, PAFA’s museum earned reaccreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and its school earned accreditation from Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
In 2015, under Brigham’s leadership, PAFA added two new academic programs: an undergraduate major in Fine Arts Illustration and a Low-Residency MFA degree. To accommodate this growth in the curriculum, new classrooms have been constructed, the library has been enlarged, and new technology has been added for art making and for art instruction online.
Brigham has reinforced PAFA’s commitment to gender and ethnic diversity. Exhibitions such as Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World, and Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis have attracted new audiences to PAFA. The formation of a Community Outreach Community has expanded relationships throughout the region. And PAFA has broadened its permanent collection through purchases of artists such as Harriet Hosmer, Norman Lewis, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley, and Njideka Akunyili. Linda Lee Alter’s gift in 2010 of her extensive collection of art by twentieth-century women recognized PAFA’s renewed commitment to educating, exhibiting, and employing women artists. Today, PAFA’s commitment to diversity is further reflected in that students of color comprise over 30 percent of the student body.
Brigham earned his master’s degree in Museum Studies/American Civilization and a doctorate in American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania, and bachelor's degrees in English and Accounting summa cum laude from the University of Connecticut. He has published, organized exhibitions, and delivered invited lectures on a broad range of American art from the 17th to the late 20th centuries, including a book about PAFA’s founder Charles Willson Peale.
Previously, Brigham was the Executive Director of the Allentown Museum of Art (2002-2007), and the Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of American Art at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts (1996-2002). He has also taught at the University of Southern California, George Mason University, and Lebanon Valley College, where he directed the Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery, and was Research Associate at the Huntington Library. His research has been supported by prestigious research fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution, Huntington Library, McNeil Center for the Study of Early American Studies, Library Company of Philadelphia, British Academy, and the Bellagio Study Center of the Rockefeller Foundation.
His wife, artist Holly Trostle Brigham, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the early 1990s and earned her MFA from The George Washington University. They live in Philadelphia and have two children, Noble and Flora.