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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Her passion comes through’: Ulrich curator finds creativity in her job

Garima Thapa
Jo Reinert is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Ulrich Museum. “I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t into art,” Reinert said. “I gravitated toward making (art) from a very young age.”

Finding a hobby or a passion can take time for most. For Jo Reinert, the Ulrich Museum of Art curator of modern and contemporary art, art came naturally for her.

“I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t into art,” Reinert said. “I gravitated toward making (art) from a very young age.” 

Reinert said that some of her earliest memories were drawing pictures for family members. She also loved writing stories and illustrating them when she was in elementary school. 

 “Any creative pursuit always came naturally,” Reinert said. “And not just visual art, I loved theater as a kid.”

Before she was a curator, Reinert studied art at University of Texas at Tyler where she earned her bachelor’s, then later, her master’s in art history with her thesis focusing on 19th century art and modern and contemporary art as a second emphasis.

Reinert also graduated with a bachelor’s minor in studio art with a mixed media emphasis and still paints today. 

Reinert came to the Ulrich in 2020 and was previously the registrar and collections manager for the museum before taking on the role of curator of modern and contemporary art. She said she was impressed with the museum and the quality of art displayed. 

“I really fell in love with the collection, the sculpture collection, with the campus,” Reinert said. “I was really impressed with the collection for it being not a large museum and not a large staff.”

Reinert got into the category of modern and contemporary art, as she felt that it is the art of her time. 

“These are artists that have lived at the same time that I am living,” Reinert said. “These are artists creating interpretations of the world that I am currently living in on a personal note.”

Reinert said that curating happened organically as a creative pursuit and she sees it as a creative practice. 

“Curating in itself is such an art,” Reinert said. “Learning about centuries of other people making (art) and what they’ve made and why they’ve made (it), you can’t help but think about creating a space with those works.”

Reinert said that putting a show together at the museum is incredibly artistic because of the design, arrangement and the flow of the gallery. 

“Design is a big part of my curatorial practice,” Reinert said. 

Reinert doesn’t have a favorite piece; she said that it’s very challenging to choose one because she’s spent years with the collection. 

“We have so many unique pieces,” Reinert said. “(Including) pieces that are unique to the artist’s career.” 

One example Reinert gave of a unique piece in the Ulrich’s collection is the “Personnages Oiseaux,” or “Bird People,” by Joan Miró, which is the only mosaic Miró has made in Venetian glass and marble. 

Reinert said that Miró’s piece is the only outdoor mosaic in the United States, while the others are in Spain. 

“(Miró’s piece is) really quite unique,” Reinert said. “We have a lot of pieces like that where it’s a really special, significant work in an artist’s career.” 

Reinert said she loves her job as curator and that she feels great responsibility about it.

“I love my coworkers and I love working in a smaller, but mighty institution,” Reinert said. “With … a smaller staff, we work interdepartmentally. We’re very collaborative.” 

Taryn Trapani, the Ulrich Museum of Art registrar and collections manager, said that she works closely with Reinert on a regular basis, from getting exhibitions ready to loan agreements and transportation for exhibition loans. 

Trapani said that she and Reinert became fast friends when Trapani came to the team in Nov. 2023.

“I could just recognize that she’s amazing at what she does,” Trapani said. “It just comes naturally to her and so I immediately, like, look up to her in a sense.” 

Trapani said Reinert is great to work with and is easy to get along with at work and outside of their jobs.

“She really cares about the people she works with,” Trapani said. “Her passion comes through in what she does, so it was a natural progression for her to move into curator and that’s kind of where she wanted to be.” 

Trapani said that it’s a real privilege to be working this closely with Reinert and to also be friends with her since she and Reinert have a lot in common. They’ve both been in different parts of the country and they can relate to each other’s experiences as out-of-staters.

Trapani said that she and Reinert also bond over their love of spooky themed podcasts and shows and their love of art. 

“We hang out outside of work all the time,” Trapani said. “We have “Stranger Things” viewings on the weekends and we watch scary movies together.”

Trapani said that this is a really great time for the Ulrich and Reinert is a big part of what’s next for the museum.

Jo Reinert at her desk in the Ulrich Museum on June 18. Reinert is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Ulrich Museum. (Garima Thapa)

“Her work that she’s putting together for the programming and the exhibitions for the next couple years is really exciting,” Trapani said. “She’s got her hand into everything … I think everyone’s going to be really excited and happy about what’s to come.”

Vivian Zavataro, the executive and creative director for the Ulrich, describes Reinert as incredible, super creative, a hard worker, very kind and a team player. 

“She’s high energy,” Zavataro said. “She’s always thinking about the team as a whole.” 

Zavataro also said Reinert is a good friend and that she’s super thoughtful, kind and honest. 

“You know those friends that will tell you that you have something green on your teeth?” Zavataro said. “She’s one of those (friends).” 

Zavataro also said that something she admires about Reinert is that she always has a vision for the museum in the future. 

“So any ideas that she has, she’s thinking,” Zavataro said. “She’s always thinking about the effects of what she will do or have in the future of the museum.”

According to Zavataro, one thing Reinert is always thinking about ways the Ulrich can be more relevant to students, faculty and the community as a whole. 

“She came up with this idea of a series of exhibitions that will feature local artists. So, engaging more locally,” Zavataro said. “She also thinks about ways that the exhibitions can be more hands-on.”

Zavataro added that Reinert is inspiring to work with because she curates shows not only from the perspective of an art historian, but from the perspective of an artist. 

“It’s really cool to see those two worlds coming together in exhibitions through her visions,” Zavataro said. “I really admire that.”

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About the Contributors
Jacinda Hall
Jacinda Hall, Reporter
Jacinda Hall is a reporter for The Sunflower. Hall is a Senior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Hall hopes to pursue a career in writing, editing or teaching journalism at the high school level after graduation. Hall uses she/her pronouns.
Garima Thapa
Garima Thapa, Photographer
Garima Thapa is a third-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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  • AnonymousJun 21, 2024 at 5:36 pm

    So very proud of my bonus daughter JoBeth and all her accomplishments in her journey!!
    You are amazing and I love you very much ❤️

  • K

    Kelsey SparkmanJun 21, 2024 at 3:57 pm

    What a great article!! I used to work with Jo and I love how she is recognized for her hardwork and talent and her genuine personality