This fall, the St. Olaf community is being treated to a rare and exciting opportunity. On Sept. 14, the Department of Art and Art History opened a new exhibit in the Flaten Art Museum titled “Artists on the Hill.” The entire faculty of the art department has come together to display a diverse exhibition of the faculty members’ work.
A comprehensive exhibit such as this is only put together every three years or so and includes pieces from active, emeriti and deceased faculty members.
“The purpose of this exhibit is to show what the faculty of St. Olaf can do, both for our students and our colleagues,” said Christine Hawkins, technical supervisor of the art department. St. Olaf is fortunate to possess active professors who continue to research, discover and create while they work and teach on campus. “Artists on the Hill” is an opportunity for students to see this in a tangible form.
“We are becoming the risk-takers and scholars we ask students to be,” said Wendell Arneson, professor of studio art. The exhibit illustrates the struggle, contemplation and dedication professors actively engage in through their work.
The sheer number of pieces ensures there will be something for everyone to enjoy. The individual works of 15 different artists, as well as a few collaborative pieces, can be seen on display. The faculty chose not to have a theme this year, allowing the exhibit to encompass a wide variety of mediums, styles and emotions. Ranging from painting and sketching to sculpture and pottery, the diverse talent of the St. Olaf faculty is well represented.
“It really is a laboratory to explore visual ideas,” said Jill Ewald, director of the Flaten Art Museum. Students are encouraged not only to visit the exhibit, but to take their time and truly discover it.
“Come with an open mind,” Hawkins said. “Look at the work and then talk about it with others. There is a lot up there to take in.” Such great breadth of mastery can be appreciated for ten minutes or hours.
“It is like cotton candy for the eyes,” Ewald said. “It is a great opportunity to take a break from your busy day and just let the art be around you.”
The pieces are undoubtedly exciting to look at, but on an even deeper level, the faculty of St. Olaf suggests that art creation and appreciation is just as important now as ever before.
“Over the past several years, we have seen less and less ability of students to work with their hands and use creativity,” Hawkins said. “Art teaches students to think differently and develop a problem-solving approach in life.”
Art teaches people to notice details, ask questions and stylize their own personal interpretations. These are skills that can be applied in almost any real-life situation. The process of thinking about possibilities, it also teaches people to think with an open mind.
“Art is a sign of a civilized society,” Ewald said. “Civilizations without art often lead to narrow-mindedness and intolerance.” The tradition of art is one of the things that has connected societies across the world throughout time. Kept alive by the viewers’ interpretations, art trains the mind to consider other perspectives and opportunities.
“When people see our work, what they say shows it has enriched their lives more than we ever thought possible,” Hawkins said.
Come see what the faculty is up to on campus. You may be surprised at what you find. Stop in at the Flaten Art museum for a few minutes between classes or check it out with friends in the afternoon. Located on the second floor of Dittmann Center, the exhibit will be on display through Friday, Oct. 12. It is free and open to the public all week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.