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Jennifer Komar Olivarez

Jennifer Komar OlivarezAssociate Curator
Department: Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture

Current MIA Projects

  • Research and development of the exhibition “Finland: Designed Environments,” planned for summer 2014 at the MIA, which focuses on Finnish contemporary design, craft, architecture, urban planning, and new areas of design
  • “The Progressive Pencil: George Elmslie's Prairie School Designs,” A centennial exhibition of the Purcell-Cutts House May 26–August 26, 2013, focusing on the drawings and designs of George Grant Elmslie
  • Education

    Diploma in Decorative Arts, University of Glasgow;
    M.A., University of Minnesota; B.A., Saint Louis University

    Background/Work History

    • Minneapolis Institute of Arts since 1991
    • Curator of the museum’s Purcell-Cutts House; works with the MIA’s Prairie School, modern design, and contemporary craft collections; organizes special exhibitions on architecture, craft, and design

    Specialty/Area of Interest

    Twentieth- and twenty-first-century decorative arts, design, and architecture, especially Prairie School, post-WWII modernism, contemporary craft, and Nordic design

    Honors and Professional Associations

    • Adjunct Faculty, Department of Art History, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
    • Attingham Study Week, Stockholm, Sweden, 2003
    • Association of Art Museum Curators
    • Society of Architectural Historians
    • Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, board member, 1997–2003

    Selected Exhibitions and Projects

    • Participating curator, Metamuseum, a multi-museum, multi-curator Tumblr project on design March–May, 2013
    • “Porcelain as a Global Commodity,” Sep. 16, 2012–July 31, 2013
    • “Conversations with Wood: Selections from the Waterbury Collection,” Jun. 17–Sep. 4, 2011
    • “The Experiment Continues: Design from 1945 to the Present,” May 19–Sep. 11, 2011
    • "Basins, Baskets, and Bowls: Women Explore the Vessel," 2010
    • “From Towers to Teakettles: Michael Graves Architecture and Design,” 2009
    •  Co-curator, “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future,” with Walker Art Center, 2008
    • “Frank Lloyd Wright for Everyman: The Malcolm Willey House and the Lindholm Service Station,” 2007
    • “Marcel Breuer in Minnesota,” 2002
    • “Howard Ben Tré: Sculpting Space in the Public Realm,” 2001
    • “John Howe in Minnesota: The Prairie School Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright,” 2000
    • “Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design,” 1999
    • “Minnesota 1900: Art and Life on the Upper Mississippi 1890–1915,” 1994


    • Contributor, The Cutting Edge: Contemporary Wood Art and the Lipton Collection (Fine Arts Press, 2011)
    • “Wood Art's Rise to Fame: Developments to 1996,” in Conversations with Wood: the Ruth and David Waterbury Collection (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 2011)
    • Contributor, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future (Yale University Press, 2006)
    • Progressive Design in the Midwest: The Purcell-Cutts House and the Prairie School Collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2000)
    • Contributor, Minnesota 1900: Art and Life on the upper Mississippi 1890–1915 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1994)

    Other Information

    “Having spent so much time working with the buildings, writings, and archives of William Purcell and George Elmslie (the designers of our Purcell-Cutts House) I now feel as if I know them, though they both died before I was born! I enjoy introducing students and others to their writings as well, as they transport the reader back to optimism and values of the early twentieth century. Ironically, my personal style is more Scandinavian Modern than Arts and Crafts or Prairie School. One of my favorite experiences was working with Ralph Rapson on his retrospective exhibition—we miss you, Ralph!”


    (612) 870-3101
    (department phone)

    October 2012