SOMETIMES I FEEL like I am missing out on a whole big wide world of art.
Not because art is absent here in outstate Minnesota. It isn’t. Recent years have seen a renewed effort to bring the arts—visual and performing—to communities like mine outside the Twin Cities metro area. Faribault has the Paradise Center for the Arts. Neighboring Owatonna, Northfield and Waseca also have art centers. Even the community of Zumbrota, population around 3,400, has the thriving Crossings at Carnegie.
So there are plenty of opportunities to engage in the arts at a local and regional level without venturing into Minneapolis or St. Paul, which I really prefer to avoid given my aversion for traffic congestion and big cities in general.
Despite an abundance of wonderful local art, I was still missing that segment of art created by renowned artists or by artists outside of Minnesota.
That is until I recently realized that I can see that type of art, too, right in my backyard.
Two colleges in Northfield, a 22-minute drive from my Faribault home, both sometimes showcase notable art from their collections in exhibits that are open to the public. They also bring in outside artists and traveling exhibits. Entrance to Carleton’s Perlman Teaching Museum and St. Olaf’s Flaten Art Museum is free. No cost and no traffic are a winning combination for me.
Together, these two prestigious private colleges hold more than 6,500 paintings, fine art prints, photographs, sculptures and more in their collections.
I discovered Carleton’s gallery space about 18 months ago and St. Olaf’s just recently, when I arrived at the college atop the hill to view Selma to Montgomery: Marching Along the Voting Rights Trail, an exhibition of Stephen Somerstein’s photos.
After studying Somerstein’s remarkable images, I strode across the hall to see the Interrogating Gender exhibit, since closed.
There I marveled in getting close up to photographs taken by Andy Warhol. Yes, the Andy Warhol. I stood in reverent awe before a 16th Century oil painting on panel of Madonna and Child by Adriaen Isenbrandt. I enjoyed art from Africa and Italy and the Cows in Pasture pencil on paper by Rosa Bonheur.
I could have reached out and touched the art, except I didn’t. It was that comfortably accessible and intimate. I didn’t have that feeling I often get in galleries of “be careful and don’t touch,” although I was aware of cameras on the premise.
I only wish I’d realized years ago that I could simply walk onto these college campuses and view art by well-known and other artists and students, too.
Now that I know, I’ll be back.
FYI: All of the exhibits mentioned in this post are no longer showing. Both colleges will be featuring a Senior Art Show in their exhibit spaces.
Please check back for a story and photos of the Selma to Montgomery exhibit.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling