From Tapestries to Textiles: Alumna Takes on Assistant Curator Position
Alumna Erica Warren was first attracted to the University of Minnesota’s art history department due to its impressive reputation and the rigor of its programs. She found not only academic rigor, but rich experiences and lifelong friends and mentors. Although Warren received both her BA and PhD at the University of Minnesota, she is fortunate to have called many cities home. After finishing her MA at New York University, she completed a curatorial fellowship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). She says, “In talking with my direct supervisor about museum work and my future, she asked me the best thing about the fellowship, and I told her that learning something new everyday was my favorite part of the job!”
Warren says the art history department contributed to her success and greatly prepared her for her career. With help and encouragement from faculty members, as well as friends and family, Warren felt supported during trying times, despite the stress and competition of her PhD program. She worked closely with professors Gabe Weisberg, Jane Blocker, and Steven Ostrow.
Warren spent countless hours working with Weisberg, who challenged her to choose a dissertation topic early. Warren chose to focus on Gerhard Munthe’s tapestries, which established her as a decorative arts scholar. Gerhard Munthe's tapestries are pictorial and feature brightly colored scenes of folktales that include human and animal figures, as well as a wide array of repeating two-dimensional patterns. “I was drawn to Munthe's distinctive style, which, while engaged with the concerns of other Norwegian and European artists of his time period, also appeared uniquely his own,” says Warren.
After years of research and writing, she was ready to defend her dissertation. “The morning of my defense, I arrived early to set up my presentation, and I had a little trouble with the computer,” she says. “I felt flustered.” However, computer issues couldn’t stop Warren from a successful and memorable defense. “I calmed down as familiar faces filed into the room. I was overcome with appreciation for my family, friends, and colleagues. I have never been so overwhelmed and swelled with gratitude and joy!”
Now she is embarking on a new role at the Art Institute of Chicago. As Assistant Curator of Textiles, Warren is responsible for learning about the institute’s European textile collections, researching and proposing treatments the textiles might need, and organizing installations and rotations in the galleries, all the while working with different departments to support visitor engagement. “I am most excited to become familiar with the Art Institute of Chicago's diverse collection of European and European-based textiles,” Warren says. “I eagerly anticipate building the collection with important acquisitions, particularly in the areas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as contemporary fiber.”