Section: Features

Quarterback by day, artist by night: the tale of Ryan O’Leary

Quarterback by day, artist by night: the tale of Ryan O’Leary

One of O’Leary’s wire sculptures | COURTESY OF O’LEARY

Though his time on the football field came to a close on Saturday, quarterback Ryan O’Leary ’23 is still hard at work somewhere Kenyon students might not expect: in Horvitz Hall, where he is finishing up a major in studio art.

Even after nearly four years on the Hill, O’Leary still finds that people don’t always expect these two facets of him. “People oftentimes are very surprised when I say that [I’m a studio arts major],” he said. “Which, I don’t know why; it’s a very normal major, but they don’t really apply those two together, necessarily.” Despite what others think, the two are a natural pair for the quarterback from New Jersey.

O’Leary’s love of both football and art has roots in his childhood. His football career began when he was just eight years old, and the joy of the game has always driven him, rather than a love of being the quarterback. “I just really enjoyed football in itself, and quarterback just happened to be the position that I grew to like,” O’Leary said. In addition to growing to love football, he found a passion for the arts as a child. “I’ve always had an interest in art,” he said. “Growing up, doing any sorts of crafts, anything artistic, really made me happy.”

As a senior captain with Kenyon football, O’Leary started all of the Owls’ 10 games this season, finishing the campaign with 2,605 passing yards, the fourth-best single season mark in Kenyon history. He finished the season with 22 passing and six rushing touchdowns. The camaraderie of the football team is what O’Leary will have the hardest time leaving behind as the seasons shift from fall to winter. “My favorite part about [playing] quarterback is that I get to help the other players on the team get the ball and watch them be successful,” he said. “I think the thing I’ll miss the most about football is being on a team; there’s nothing like it.”

O’Leary’s plans to pursue architecture led him to the studio art major, after he heard from Kenyon alumni in the field that the major had helped them begin successful careers. While completing his degree, O’Leary has found a particular passion for sculpture: “I’ve always been interested in building many things,” he said. “I’ve worked in construction the past couple of years, so sculpture’s kind of grown [on] me based off of that.” Recently, he has been working with wire to complete a project on memory. “I’m working on replicating certain items in my apartment [from] memory through wire,” he said. “The wire works very well with this because it’s strong but not too strong, so it’s kind of malleable and changes, just like memory.”

After graduation, O’Leary is planning to put his degree to use by working for a general contractor as an estimator, the person who estimates the cost of construction projects based on the plans, before potentially returning to school to study architecture.

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