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NU art graduate heads to New York for Bravo’s ‘Work of Art’ reality show

Alexandra Finkel

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Last spring, Ryan Shultz was finishing up his MFA in art theory and practice at NU. A few months later, he was whisked off to NYC for “Work of Art,” Bravo’s newest reality TV show. Shultz chatted with The Summer NU about going to frat parties (at age 26), why Bravo picked him and what he’s up to now.Excerpts:The Summer NU How’d you end up at NU for art school?Ryan Shultz: When I went to apply for school, I got full rides everywhere except for UCLA, which I didn’t get into. But the main reason I went to NU was when I was in the interview, they gave me some really good criticism. It wasn’t always so nice, but it was very constructive and they asked good questions. Some of the other schools like University of Chicago just wanted me so bad. They didn’t give me any criticism. When I was talking to them, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re in, you have a full ride.’ I was like, ‘OK, you don’t want to ask me any questions or push me or anything.’SNU: What’d you do in Evanston?Shultz: On a couple of occasions, I did go to a couple frat parties. I was the youngest person in the program so I was like, ‘I’m going back to college.’ I had some fun. I’d always go when there was a rager going on.SNU: Why’d you decide to audition for the show?Shultz: I was interested in it as a possible promotion. I didn’t think I was going to win. I realized from the outset that it would be incredibly difficult for a realist painter who spends between 300 and 1500 hours on a painting to make it on a show with such a time crunch. But I felt like, ‘OK, I’ve had a lot of weird experiences in life, I might as well do something completely absurd.’SNU: Why do you think Bravo picked you?Shultz: For one, I’m a realist painter so most people can look at my art, understand it and like it. But ultimately the main reason we are picked is personality. They’re looking for people they can pigeonhole into categories. I guess I’m what you’d call the art fag ­- you know, tight jeans, black all the time, smoking cigarettes, drinking all the time, don’t read the bible, etc.SNU: What was being on the show like?Shultz: It was incredibly stressful. At the end of the day, we ended up not sleeping that much. But it’s intentional. They want us to be losing our shit to make it intense. SNU: Do you feel like the show accurately depicted you?Shultz: Whatever you do on the show, you actually do. Maybe they chop it up and edit it so it looks like you’re only doing certain things, but if you act a certain way, that’s what the footage is going to be. I thought it was a pretty accurate portrayal of how I am. Not as an artist because I couldn’t really make the type of work I make. It was both an issue of time and an issue of inspiration. We were sort of forced to have inspiration. That was the most challenging part for me.SNU: You got voted off in last week’s episode. Do you think you deserved to go home?Shultz: I was totally OK with it in that I didn’t think I was going to go very far. I had no intention of winning. I was very clearly the most disadvantaged artist. I don’t do sculpture or any of the other things we were forced to do. I don’t use pipecleaners and glitter to make my art so I had to step outside the box and do other things. Did I deserve to go home that episode? I don’t think so. Do I really care? Not really.SNU: What are you doing now?Shultz: I’m back in Chicago. I’m painting a lot. I’m selling paintings. I’m teaching art lessons. Now I have all these new students who have seen the show. alexfinkel@u.northwestern.edu

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