Meet Our Alumni
Jon West-Bey, Bank Street Graduate School of Education '04

Jon West-Bey

Leadership in Museum Education '04

I learned skills that I use constantly in my work, like how to center progressive education in arts programming and to place an emphasis on social justice.

Jon West-Bey, GSE ’04, took his passion for poetry and founded the American Poetry Museum in Washington, DC which highlights poetry as literary and performance art. His museum goes beyond the traditional and is an active learning museum providing community gathering spaces for not only art exhibitions but also poetry and reading to promote literacy.

Clear about his goal of serving the community, West-Bay decided to attend Bank Street’s leadership in museum education program to support his mission of placing poetry and performance art as an active tool for education.

“I was always passionate about museums as learning spaces. I had heard that Bank Street was a leader in progressive education, and I wanted a master’s degree that led to becoming a museum leader.”  Additional leadership qualities would follow, according to West-Bey, “I learned skills that I use constantly in my work, like how to center progressive education in arts programming and to place an emphasis on social justice.”

The journey along one’s professional path toward leadership is not often gained alone. For West-Bey that nudge came from a professional organization for people who work for and with museums. “I learned about Bank Street through the American Association of Museums. I was intrigued that it was a distance learning program, and this master’s program prepared me by introducing me to relevant leaders in the field, including a very supportive faculty, and gave me the skills I needed to succeed in an ever-changing field.” The added value, he says, was priceless. 

Since graduating from Bank Street and in addition to founding the American Poetry Museum, he also teaches as a lecturer of museum studies at The Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Science, serves as the curator of the arts collections at the University of Maryland Global Campus, and has excelled as executive director for Maryland’s Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.

To meet the evolving needs of students, beginning in Fall 2021 Bank Street is launching a new master’s degree program, Learning and Engagement in Museums and Cultural Organizations. It is ideal for professionals who want to learn to think reflectively and strategically about how museum education can advance organizational strategies for inclusion, engagement, and community participation.