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Ulrich’s new director excited to return to Wichita

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at 1:10 a.m.

The Ulrich Museum’s new director has traveled the world, overseeing installations of art. He has curated exhibits at noted museums and opened art centers.

But now, Bob Workman, a graduate of Southeast High School, is coming home.

“I am so excited to come back to Wichita,” said Workman, who earned his art degree in the late 1970s from Wichita State University. He has not worked in Wichita since he was employed at the Ulrich for a few years at the beginning of his career.

Workman received his master’s degree in theater history from Boston University and then went on to work at the Rhode Island School of Design, American Federation of Arts, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. Three years ago, he was given the task of opening the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.

The Ulrich Museum, on the Wichita State University campus, was founded in 1974 and is noted for its modern and innovative art exhibits. Recently, under the direction of Patricia McDonnell, the museum altered its appearance, replaced its air-handling system and accelerated its outreach.

McDonnell has moved across town to direct the Wichita Art Museum and is thrilled to have Workman take over the Ulrich.

“He’s charming and intelligent. He’s just a prince,” McDonnell said. “He’ll be a super museum director at the Ulrich.”

McDonnell and Workman worked together at the Rhode Island School of Design, another academic museum. Workman wants to get back into an academic environment. He views the atmosphere as innovative, dynamic and experimental.

Workman applauds McDonnell’s programming and hopes to continue to reach out to the university and the community with a variety of exhibits.

“I think the yarn bombing exhibit was brilliant,” Workman said, referring to a recent exhibit that wrapped yarn around WSU statues. “It brought attention to the Ulrich in a new and creative way.”

Workman, who begins his new position on Jan. 20, plans to search through the museum’s collections, hire a new curator and tackle the new season.

“I want to take some time to see who we are serving and where we are serving,” Workman said. He wants to remain open to bringing in some tactile exhibits, citing that people learn in a multitude of ways. He also hopes to work with other organizations in the community, including the Wichita Art Museum.

“I am very good at bringing the best of the collaboration process,” Workman said. “The possibilities for collaboration are just so exciting.”

Workman said he understands that his primary obligation is to the students, but right behind them are the staff, volunteers and community members.

Workman and his wife, Liz, a graduate of East High School and the art program at WSU, bought themselves a Ron Christ painting as a wedding gift years ago. Now, Workman, a former student of Christ, a professor at WSU, will once again work with one of his mentors.

“I am so excited to come here,” Workman said. “There are a lot of great people here.”

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