Walker Art Center is a world-class modern art museum, so it's fitting that it scours the world for top talent.
Take Bartholomew Ryan, one of the Walker's newest curators. He hails from Dublin, where he studied experimental drama and theater before moving to New York a decade ago. There he received a master's in curatorial studies at Bard College before moving to Minneapolis for a Walker fellowship in 2009. A year later, he was promoted to assistant curator of visual art.
The Walker's fellowship program brings in young curators-to-be from an international pool. "It's a way of keeping things fresh at the Walker and bringing new people in," Ryan explained in a lilting Irish accent.
Ryan now produces anywhere from three to six exhibits at a time. The more complicated exhibits can take as long as two years to put together, while others, such as residencies, take about a year. Daily tasks run the gamut of e-mail communication, research, budgeting, writing essays and planning meetings. When he has an exhibit running, he gives tours and attends dinners and openings. Twelve-hour days are not unusual.
"The biggest challenge is balancing what the institution needs, what the public needs and what the artist needs," Ryan said. "You want to be fair to all of them, and that's not always easy."
Another big part of his job is to work on acquisitions for the museum's permanent collection, which involves a lot of travel. "It takes a lot of research, a lot of talking to people, pricing, figuring out what works within our collection best," he said of the process.
His next show, "Painter Painter," the first group painting show at the Walker in years, opens Feb. 2. "We wanted to take a fresh perspective on painting," he said of the show he's co-producing with fellow curator Eric Crosby. "We were interested in thinking about what it means to work as an abstract painter today."
As for his move to Minnesota, Ryan said he quickly felt at home.
"Dublin is not that different in size from Minneapolis," he said. "It doesn't see itself in competition with cities that are much larger, so it sort of has its own feel to it, culturally." He cited the Twin Cities area's mix of major art institutions, such as the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, coupled with smaller yet vital galleries such as Midway Contemporary Art, Soo Visual Arts Center and the Soap Factory, in addition to our robust theater and music scenes.
"I didn't know much about Minneapolis before I moved here," he said. "But now that I'm entrenched here, I love it. The quality of life is great.
"The winters, though," he said with a laugh. "The first one was really hard."