Local Color: Meet Phoenix Art Museum’s First Curator of Local Art

Sara CrockerMarch 3, 2023
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Christian Ramírez at Phoenix Art Museum with “Galaxy #59” by Rotraut Klein-Moquay; Photo courtesy Phoenix Art Museum/Airi Katsuta
Christian Ramírez at Phoenix Art Museum with “Galaxy #59” by Rotraut Klein-Moquay; Photo courtesy Phoenix Art Museum/Airi Katsuta

Phoenix Art Museum names its first curator of local art.

With a collection of more than 20,000 works, Phoenix Art Museum displays pieces that span continents and generations. It has hosted exhibitions featuring iconic artists like Monet, Cézanne and Frida Kahlo. But as PAM considers its future, the museum is looking at how it can better support local artists. Christian Ramírez has joined the museum as its first assistant curator of contemporary and community art initiatives. 

“The primary focus of my role is to develop exhibitions and elevate the work being made by Arizona-based artists,” says Tucson native Ramírez. That means deepening artist relationships, creating new ones and supporting community art and events. Ramírez will also oversee PAM’s juried awards for mid-career and emerging artists in Arizona, whose works are shown at the museum. “What’s great about having this specific position is really institutionalizing that support and making it a central part of the museum’s mission,” Ramírez says. 

Increasingly, museums across the United States are creating roles that focus on people in their communities, particularly those who have been underrepresented in their collections. 

“It was really important that we made Christian’s role a curatorial role, so she does have the ability and the opportunity to curate exhibitions of local artists,” says director and CEO Jeremy Mikolajczak.

Ramírez is a familiar face at the museum, having worked as an intern and on its education and engagement team. Most recently, she served as the artist-residency and exhibition manager at Artpace in San Antonio. That solidified her desire to work with artists, “to support them and build systems to help them make their dreams come true.” Mikolajczak says Ramírez’s background makes her a great fit. 

“It’s about her support of the artist community, her willingness and her abilities to be that connector, to want to support some of those voices that aren’t always heard or seen,” he says.

In Phoenix, that starts with listening – the museum is launching a community advisory group. “We want to understand more from the community directly,” Ramírez says. The Valley arts scene has plenty of creative efforts underway that could be boosted by the visibility of PAM, the Southwest’s largest museum. “I think it’s really exciting,” Ramírez says. “There’s so much to see and so much to do.”