It’s not every day that a new chief curator is chosen for your city’s premier art museum – so Louisville has taken note of Erika Holmquist-Wall.
Holmquist-Wall arrived in Louisville in 2014, coming to the Speed Art Museum from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. “Not long enough to be a local, but long enough to be completely charmed,” she says with a smile. She started her role as curator of European and American painting and sculpture.
“A curator is the person that cares for the collections directly as far as creating exhibitions, installing the galleries,” Holmquist-Wall explains. “There’s a whole team that does that.” Her job now, though, will be a little different. “As chief curator,” she says, “I’ll be overseeing the registration department, art handlers who are trained to move the works of art, and then our curatorial staff – made up of amazing people who are putting together collections, cultivating collectors and bringing in incredible programming.”
The Speed recently reopened thanks to the strong leadership of Scott Erbes, the former chief curator who has now chosen to return to his role of curator of decorative arts and design. “We’ve spent the last several years focusing on the basics, getting the museum built and art rehung and reinstalled,” Holmquist-Wall says. “All the artworks are in place, and now we have the time and the headspace to figure out how we’re going to engage our audiences.”
“I see my role as being an advocate for the staff here at the Speed,” she continues, “supporting the work that they’re doing, and helping make the megaphone much bigger.” She’s grateful for the hard work of her curators, and can’t wait to extend the Speed’s reach. “We’re trying to look beyond the city borders and see that the Speed is the encyclopedic art museum for the entire Commonwealth and Southern Indiana,” she explains. “We’re hoping to be a stronger presence and a resource for the community.”
She’s excited about Louisville’s experience with the Speed too. “We have a vibrant arts and culture scene with the ballet, orchestra, zoo, theater – you have all the ingredients you need,” Holmquist-Wall says. “It’s everything that represents the humanities and what’s good about culture. It’s all there. And it’s been fun to figure out ways to partner up with all of these organizations and to collaborate.”
“The entire curatorial staff and everybody at the Speed – our mission is to create a greater sense of ownership and pride in the museum,” she asserts. “Not only for our local audiences but throughout the state as well. We have our work cut out for us, but I really believe that we can do it.”
And as for why we should continue to visit the Speed? “Art enhances our lives,” Holmquist-Wall says without hesitation. “We want the Speed to be not only an art museum, but kind of a hub for the community, where people can come together and have conversations. There’s a paradigm shift in museums in general, moving them away from just temples of art and opening them up to serve the community and all audiences.”
The Speed may have just recently reopened, but it’s well on its way to being a place where community members can truly engage – both with art and with each other. VT