by Marylynne Pitz
The 56th Carnegie International is now open to the public and this weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiled one of its three curators: Massachusetts transplant and lifelong art lover, Dan Byers. The bespectacled and bearded Polish Hill resident has been at the Carnegie Museum of Art since 2009 when he took the position of assistant curator of contemporary art, and this year is proud to be co-curating the oldest survey of contemporary art in North America.
Art captivated Dan Byers as a boy, and that adolescent romance blossomed into a love affair.
“Art was the thing I did as a kid and a teenager. I made a lot of art. I was the art editor of my art and literary magazine in high school,” said the Massachusetts native, who grew up in suburban Newton, seven miles west of Boston.
Every week, he rode public transit to visit the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or Harvard’s natural history museum, where he drew sculptures, paintings or people.
“I’m sure those weekly visits to museums had a lot to do with what I do today,” Mr. Byers said. “Some of my happiest moments at work are walking through the galleries and seeing children intently looking at art, and drawing what they see. It’s the kind of attention — both introspection and observation — that we so rarely allow ourselves.”
Mr. Byers spent the interview reminiscing about his history in art and how it led him to his current position as the museum’s Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art: growing up surrounded by art in Boston, schooling at Skidmore College, living and working in Philadephia and Minneapolis, and finally his time working with not only this year’s International, but with the Seed Award-funded Art Lending Collection at the Braddock Carnegie Library which opened alongside the International earlier this month.
A few days before he began working at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, he watched a performance there by Trisha Brown, a post modern choreographer whose works often defy gravity.
“Her dancers were performing in the sculpture garden and then on rafts in a pond next to the museum. Another dance involved walking down the side of a building,” Mr. Byers said.
More recently, his memories of the International’s opening weekend include the skepticism many visitors expressed about taking a bus to have brunch at the Carnegie Library in Braddock.
“There were a lot of very cynical, jaded art people in attendance and that day made them into idealists and optimists,” Mr. Byers said.
Once visitors saw the art lending library, he said, “It just affirmed the connections that people have with art objects.”
Read the rest of the article online or in your Sunday Post-Gazette, and check out the International through March 16th and the Art Lending Collection any time at the Braddock Carnegie Library.