Spotlight: Everyday art

By Kara Bomzer
University Record Intern

Imagine a job that allows you to examine numerous works of art each day, a job during which you can put together exhibits that people will remember for years to come. Visualize yourself working with people from all over the world, exploring the past, present and future through paint and sculpture. These duties are part of Sean Ulmer’s daily routine at the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA).

Sean Ulmer poses with Irving Kriesberg’s “Triad II,” 1993, oil on canvas, an anonymous gift. (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

“My position encompasses a wide variety of duties from organizing and implementing exhibitions in modern and contemporary art, to caring for and developing the museum’s collection of art in this area,” says Ulmer, University curator of modern and contemporary art.

Ulmer also works to reach out to the University community, Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan so he can explore new ways the museum can partner with different people and organizations. To facilitate this, Ulmer serves on the board of Art Pro Tem, a local organization that seeks to present temporary public-based art installations. He also serves on a committee of the Ann Arbor Art Center, offering them his experience. Such positions work to establish Ulmer and UMMA at that intersection of the University and the greater community, in Ann Arbor and beyond, he says.

While writing his Ph.D. dissertation and serving as a graduate teaching assistant at The Ohio State University, Ulmer applied for a graduate assistantship at the Wexner Center for the Arts. “I actually backed into the curatorial field,” he says. “I had completed my bachelor’s degree in the history of art at the Toledo Museum of Art, so working with objects was part of my training.”

After serving as a graduate assistant, Ulmer was hired as a curatorial assistant and later became exhibitions coordinator at the Wexner Center. He enjoyed the opportunity to thoroughly work with art objects and apply the knowledge gained in both his undergraduate and graduate studies. “There is something very special to me about bringing people and the actual work of art together,” Ulmer says.

Originally from South Bend, Ind., Ulmer also has served as assistant curator of painting and sculpture at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. There, Ulmer was in charge of the entire painting and sculpture collection, from Egypt to today, including the African, pre-Columbian and decorative arts collections.

In 2001, Ulmer moved to Ann Arbor to accept the position he currently holds, one that was newly created when he arrived. “The move to Ann Arbor to accept this position was, in part, to focus on that area for which I have my greatest passion,” Ulmer says.

In his free time, Ulmer enjoys gardening and going to University Musical Society performances.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.