Meet Erika Holmquist-Wall, 2020 Most Admired Woman — Arts

Jun 1, 2020 | Most Admired Woman

The wood structures outside are one of the art installations Erika did before the COVID-19 closure of the Speed Art Museum.

2020 MOST ADMIRED WOMAN — ARTS
Erika Holmquist-Wall
Curator of European and American Painting and Sculpture, Speed Art Museum
Family: Husband Jason Wall, daughter Sunniva, 9 Neighborhood: Pewee Valley

Despite the Speed Art Museum being closed during the COVID-19 situation, Erika Holmquist-Wall has been as active as ever from home. She was tasked with overseeing the museum’s effort to get its content online — the collections and exhibitions and learning programs. She says it has actually been a bit of a gift because sometimes she is so busy with the physical space that it’s been nice to slow down and take a closer look at the collections. And, she wants to make sure that art has a place in all of this, whether it’s looking at, creating, or watching.

 

HOW HAS THIS TIME AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY?
Well, I am homeschooling my daughter and discovering that working from home is great. Before this, in the other normal, we were all so busy and distracted. When we come out of this, we will definitely be changed, but I hope that we will see new ways of working and being and living our daily lives.

WHAT LED YOU TO THE SPEED?
I worked for 15 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art as a curator. In 2014, I had the opportunity to come to the Speed Art Museum and to rethink, reinterpret, and reinstall the entire collection after its renovation. It was a chance to open the museum from scratch, and I purposely didn’t look at photos of what it looked like before.

FAVORITE ART PERIOD?
I love everything from 16th century Netherlands oil paintings to 20th century German expressionism. You won’t pin me down.

Erika says she likes a wide range of art, from 16th century Netherlands oil paintings to 20th century German expressionism. Submitted photo.
FAVORITE GALLERY AT THE SPEED?
Gallery 19 is devoted to the idea of domestic intimacy. It is really speaking to me now more than ever as we are all spending time at home.

WORD THAT DESCRIBES YOU?
Magpie. I’m interested in everything.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO GO INTO ART HISTORY?
My mom was an art history major in college and an elementary art teacher. When I was 5 or 6 years old I would page through her art history books that she kept on the coffee table. The images caught my eye and the stories they told. When I went to college I signed up for higher-level art history classes and discovered that all I wanted to do was talk about art and explain art to people and tell the stories. I have been lucky that people guided me toward curatorial work.

Erika stands at the entrance of the Speed Art Museum facing Third Street.
MUSEUMS YOU HAVE VISITED THAT ARE OFF THE BEATEN PATH?
Mauritshuis in The Hague. It holds both The Goldfinch and The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Also Hirschsprung Collection in Copenhagen. They both have terrific collections.

THREE THINGS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
Art, books, coffee.

BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It keeps you fearless.

CAN’T QUITE GET THE KNACK OF?
Excel spreadsheets.

ADVENTURE YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE?
Apart from going out of my home when this pandemic passes, I want to be able to see the world’s great museums again.

Erika takes a peek inside the museum from the outside during its COVID-19 closing.

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