Winter 2019

Art smart

Ben Weil, the 10th fellow funded by the O’Briens, is curating an exhibit in the Weisman’s Edith Carlson Gallery.
Photography by Liz Banfield

In the late 1980s, Gerald O’Brien, an art history major at the University of Michigan, got some exciting news—he’d been awarded a coveted summer internship at Sotheby’s in New York. In fact, two departments wanted him. O’Brien, who worked as a museum guard to help cover tuition, asked what the positions paid. The HR director told him they didn’t—that Sotheby’s wanted people who love art for art’s sake. He assured her that he did, but he wouldn’t work for free. 

O’Brien ultimately traded art history for a career in institutional investments, but he never forgot that experience, prompting him and his wife to establish the E. Gerald and Lisa O’Brien Curatorial Fellowship at the University of Minnesota in 2008. Fellows receive a $25,000 stipend to work at the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) for one year. 

Ben Weil, the 2018–19 fellow, is working alongside WAM senior curator Diane Mullin planning exhibits, writing labels for pieces in upcoming shows, and doing research. He’s also applying to graduate programs in art history. 

“It’s a great opportunity at a highly ranked university museum and, I hope, a bridge to a career as a curator or teaching art history,” he says of the fellowship.