Photo by Charles A. Smith.
Ryan N. Dennis is the chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) at the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Ryan previously served as the Curator and Programs Director at Project Row Houses where her work focused on African American contemporary art with a particular emphasis on socially engaged practices, site-specific projects, public interventions and the development of public-facing programs for adults and youth. She is deeply interested in the intersection of art and social justice while creating equitable opportunities for artists to thrive in their work.
Is there a particular project for work, either new or ongoing, that is capturing your attention?
There is but I can’t share it until it is officially announced in April – can I leave you all enticed?! Another project that I am thrilled about is the TX Biennial which I am co-curating with my colleague-brother-friend Evan Garza which opens in September. [Ruby City will be one of the venues for the Texas Biennial.] Also, I can’t wait for the next issue of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts to drop – I am the guest art editor. I have asked two amazing writers from Houston, Amarie Gipson and Sidney Garrett, to critically engage the work of Houston-based photographer Bria Lauren and Brooklyn-based draftswoman Aya Brown. I am very excited to share all these projects with the world!
Have you picked up any new hobbies since the pandemic began?
I haven’t picked up new hobbies per se. I have been working on digging deeper into things I enjoy: yoga/stretching, meditation, leaning into rest, learning about herbs and spending time with my family and being present. The pandemic has been a big learning lesson and we aren’t out of this madness yet so I am time-traveling internally.
Our worlds have become much more localized due to COVID-19. Has your local environment or community shaped your work?
I just moved to a new city, so I am still learning how this takes shape within my work. So much transition has happened over the last 10 months that I don’t have a formed answer for this yet.
What’s an object either in your home or work environment that you are inspired by, that you absolutely love looking at or thinking about?
My daughter isn’t an object, but she is the only way I can answer this question! She is so inspiring and makes me more curious, more creative, more critical and free literally all day, every day.
What’s the best thing you’ve read, watched or heard over the past year?
I’ve been reading a lot for work but also: The Constitution (because we all need to know what we are dealing with in this America, especially as BIPOCs); revisiting Joanna Burton’s Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good; and indulging in Stephanie Rose Bird’s Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs; and Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham’s Black Futures – such a gift.
I don’t have a TV so I haven’t been watching a lot, but I did just finish P-Valley and let me tell you, that is one of the best shows I have seen in 2021. I am late to the party because it came out in the summer of 2020 but better late than never. 😊
What (or who) have you looked to for strength and inspiration in these uncertain times?
Can I say my daughter again? Lol! I turn to the Most High. I turn to nature and look inward to ground and recenter when it all feels unbearable.
Bonus Question for Ryan: What is the biggest misconception people have about San Antonio?
I haven’t lived in San Antonio for nearly 20 years but I think people don’t understand how vibrant the city is now. It is really growing into a creative hub! I don’t think it gets enough credit for this.