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Photo: Lainie Rusco
As a WSU student in the 1970s, Bob Workman helped install the Miro mural at the Ulrich Museum of Art. Now as new Ulrich director, Workman is leading the project to refinish and re-install the Miro. In its place now is work done by WSU Art & Design faculty member Levente Sulyokwork.

New Ulrich director returns to his Wichita State roots

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 | Share

In 1978, Bob Workman was up in the air, standing on scaffolding at the front of the Ulrich Museum of Art, meticulously plugging bits of mosaic into bolt holes.

He was an undergraduate student at Wichita State, and getting the honor of helping install the famous Miro mural was the icing on the cake for the art enthusiast.

“I have to say that being a part of the Ulrich at such a dynamic and engaging time was life changing for me,” Workman said.

Thirty-five years and six cities later, the Wichita native is back home and back at Wichita State as director of the Ulrich Museum.

When Workman returned to the Ulrich, the Miro mural – a visual icon on the WSU campus – was gone, undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration. So the project he worked so hard on as a student is now one of his biggest projects as museum director.

“There’s a wonderful symmetry to my starting my art museum career here, with the privilege in 1978 to be a part of the Miro installation and unveiling,” Workman said. “Now I have a leadership responsibility with our great WSU team to not only raise the remaining funds to conserve the Miro, but also be here for the reinstallation in 2016.”

‘It’s great to be back’

After earning his bachelor’s in art history from Wichita State, Workman moved to Boston, where he received his master’s from Boston University.

Workman then held a series of positions as he earned experience in the world of art. He was curator for the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design; director of exhibitions at the American Federations of Arts in New York City; deputy director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; and founding director of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

Most recently, Workman was director of the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kan.

“My career is somewhat unique in that I have been intimately involved in the design and construction of three museums,” Workman said.

Now as director of WSU’s art museum, he leads the staff in the development and care of the 7,000-plus works of art in the Ulrich collection, the development and implementation of the exhibitions program, and the delivery of educational programs on and around campus.

Ulrich staff is also in the early stages of photographing and digitizing the museum’s permanent collection.

“That process is a key step in our making the art accessible to the students and faculty of WSU, as well as our greater community,” Workman said.

Workman said fundraising to support the conservation of the Miro – and the work itself – is going very well.

“The opportunity to return here and work to enrich the lives of students on campus is a great motivator for me,” he said. “The collections and programs of the Ulrich provide exciting and enriching experiences for all our visitors, and I look forward to building on the great work that has been done here over the last several years. It’s great to be back, and I am very excited by the prospects for the future of the Ulrich Museum of Art.”

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Created on Wednesday, April 24, 2013; Last modified on Wednesday, May 15, 2013