About Art Connection of East Texas

Our Passion

We want to serve as a catalyst for the exposure and growth of the Art Culture in the East Texas Region. With Tyler, Longview and the Greater East Texas area becoming more and more interconnected, the Art Culture in the area has expanded exponentially in the last few years.

Our Mission

ACET strives to educate and teach children and adults to advocate for artists and the arts, and to engage the community in a range of cultural experiences and opportunities. Our Mission is to give all artists within the area a hub for information regarding other artists and art related events. We want to educate, inspire, and extend an opportunity for local artists to have a voice. Everyone has a story to tell!

The Value of Artistic Expression

Art is a result of the creativity of man resulting from the gifts bestowed by our Ultimate Creator, God. Artistic expression is a key element of our region’s image and proud heritage. In addition, they are quite valuable as social and economic contributors. Expression and appreciation of art should be available to everyone and this is critical to a well-rounded legacy for future generations.

Our Leadership

Neita Fran Ward

Neita Fran Ward

Executive Producer and Host

Neita Fran Ward is the founder, executive director and host of Art Connection of East Texas.

A native of East Texas, Neita Fran acquired a degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Interior Design from Stephen F. Austin State University. She has owned art galleries for 20 years and began designing jewelry with Navajo Brian Billie in 2001. She has sold her jewelry to many collectors in numerous states and countries, and she owned Valerosa Designs and Gallery in Tyler, TX, for many years until she retired in 2022.

Connecting people to each other with the purpose of bringing them joy through art is one of her passions.

Neita Fran hosted the Northeast New Mexico Art Connection Radio Show in Las Vegas, NM, for seven years, and now she has hosted Art Connection of East Texas (ACET) show on KTBB 97.5 FM in Tyler for seven years.  She expects to continue hosting until her voice gives out… many years in the future we all hope.

Chris Leahy

Chris Leahy


Chris Leahy, a frequent guest on Art Connection, became co-host in January 2024 after serving for ten years as the Executive Director of the Tyler Museum of Art.

Chris came to Tyler after four years (2009–2013) as the Vice President of Finance and Administration for The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA, a maritime museum with broad collections, library, and archives. The Mariners’ Museum is also home to the USS Monitor Center.

Prior to leading the staff at The Mariners’ Museum, Chris served as the CFO and Administrative Officer at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design from 2006 to 2009 and held a similar position at The Phillips Collection from 2001 to 2006. Both of these internationally known art museums are located in Washington, DC.

Prior to moving into not-for-profit leadership, Chris spent eight years as the CFO of an employee-owned defense consulting firm in Alexandria, VA. He retired from the United States Army in 1993 after Operation Desert Storm and 21 years of active service as an Infantry officer.

Chris is a graduate of the University of Delaware, and he earned a MBA from Saint Mary’s University, in San Antonio, TX.

Don Bristow

Don Bristow

Webmaster and Photographer

Don Bristow provides website and photography services for Art Connection.

Don is the IT Directory for Bethesda Health Clinic, Bethesda Pediatrics and Hangers of Hope, and he is the owner of Lightray Photoimagery, a website design, hosting and photography company. Lightray Photoimagery has been sponsor of the Art Connection of East Texas since 2016.

As a photographer and fractal artist, Don has participated in over 50 solo and group art exhibits since 2001.

Don is a Navy veteran and graduate from Sacramento State Univerity Sacramento.  He spent 20 years in the software industry before moving to Bullard, TX in 2007.