A renowned artist and educator, Al’s teaching career spanned 40 years. In 1965, he began his tenure at YSU, graduating the year prior with a bachelor’s degree in art education and later earning a master’s in painting at Kent State University. At YSU, he was the founding director of the Black Studies/ Africana Studies program from 1970-1987. YSU Associate Dean and Professor of the Cliffe College of Creative Arts, Greg Moring, said, “One of Al’s greatest contributions to YSU was his unwavering kindness and encouragement to his students. I would look into the painting studio, and there was Al with a big smile on his face and surrounded by his adoring students.”
Bright was known for his live painting performances, which he intertwined with his love of jazz. Al’s art can be found in both private and public collections around the world; during his lifetime alone, he had 100 solo exhibitions, including shows at the Butler Institute of American Art, Stanford University, and Amherst University. Additionally, he received numerous accolades, such as being a three-time recipient of YSU’s Distinguished Professor Award, Who’s Who in American Art, and Who’s Who in Black America.
After Al’s passing in October 2019, the Branch and Bright families endowed a scholarship in his honor. Its mission is “…to provide a student with a passion for the arts a need-based scholarship.” The award is open to full-time undergraduate students who are at least sophomore class standing, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the Department of Art. Students must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and scholarship application.
Al was proud to be part of the Youngstown community. His legacy will continue by helping support other artists pursuing their dreams. YSU President Jim Tressel echoed this statement, saying that Al was a “…tireless advocate for YSU, for our students and the entire Mahoning Valley region.”