Meet the Bettys: Quadracci Family Award

Barbara Brown Lee is Chief Educator Emerita at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where she has served since 1963.

During the early years of Barbara Brown Lee’s career, she served in many capacities – as curator of decorative arts, curator of collections and exhibitions, librarian, registrar, art preparator, exhibition designer, artist handler and gallery teacher.

She soon realized her gifts and passions were for teaching and grew into the position of chief educator. Barbara went on to establish numerous groundbreaking education programs that continue to this day including the Junior Docent School Program, SHARP Literacy Program, Satellite High School Internship Program and the Scholastic Art Awards: Wisconsin Exhibition. Her other formal duties have included management and training of all museum docents; collaboration with the curatorial staff regarding exhibitions and programs; training volunteers, staff and guards; and leading over 90 study tours to museum collections in the United States, Europe and Asia. Barbara has also tirelessly advocated for the museum out in the community through lectures, board service and as a juror for regional art exhibitions.

In her 56 years at the museum, Barbara has seen three additions built and watched the workforce grow from 12 staff and 15 docents, to over 250 staff and 200 docents today. Her energy and enthusiasm, humanity and humor, and scholarship and experience are legendary in Milwaukee and beyond. She has guided many artists through MAM including Georgia O’Keeffe, Philip Pearlstein, Wayne Thiebaud, David Hockney and Fernando Botero. Barbara serves “as an often enlightening, always entertaining human conduit between the museum and its patrons,” said James Auer, former Milwaukee Journal art critic.

Barbara’s formal education includes a liberal arts degree from Pine Manor Junior College and a B.A. in art history from the University of Arizona, Tucson. In addition, she has completed specialized study programs at the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico; the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum; and the Attingham Summer School in Shropshire, England.

The Betty Awards” appears in the November 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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