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Published in Macalester Today
Not all of Macalester’s art is found in its pristine and spacious art gallery in the renovated Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. Instead, you can find the college’s art—glass pieces, paintings, sculptures—all over campus. You need only slow down and look.
At first glance, Macalester’s public art pieces seem more different than similar, falling into many styles, created from a wide variety of materials, for various purposes, in separate decades.
But as Macalester art curator Greg Fitz ’99 explains, they’re unified by their collective intention and effect—“populating our space with thoughtfulness,” as he puts it. “And when art works in a public venue, that’s what it’s doing,” Fitz adds. “It’s carving out a space for a deep breath and concentration.”
Some of Mac’s public art is impossible to miss—such as the gigantic wood sculpture in the Campus Center’s stairwell or the free-standing pillars outside Kagin Commons—while others are tucked away in less conspicuous corners of campus. But each has a story behind it, with an inspiration ranging from the physics of soap bubbles to global citizenship.
This year, the focus of public art on campus will shift to pieces newly installed in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center’s renovated and expanded spaces. Says Fitz, “We’ve been earmarking great work for it since we knew the building was coming.” Several pieces were hung this fall, including work by the late art professor Gabriele Ellertson, who died in 2005. Ellertson’s daughters gave the college one of her oil paintings, which will hang permanently in the art history lounge.
The other highlight, Fitz says, is a woodblock print from the late Minnesota Native American artist George Morrison, which hangs in the entrance to the art history lounge. The print was framed at the Grand Avenue art shop Wet Paint with lumber pulled from Lake Superior—a fitting nod to an artist who spent much of his career on the lake’s North Shore.
The Ellertson and Morrison additions open the next chapter of art on campus, each piece in that legacy with its own story and moment in Macalester’s history.
This cast-bronze sculpture was funded by the Classes of 1996 and 2000. Created by art professor Stan Sears and Andrea Myklebust ’95, it was installed on the sidewalk between Old Main and Olin-Rice, just outside the entrance to the new arts commons in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.
The Sentinel, a gift from the Class of 1995, is the work of Don Celender, an art professor at Macalester from 1964 to 2005. Some readers may remember the brass and stained glass sculpture from its years outdoors: it was originally installed in 1995 behind the library, overlooking Shaw Field. After Celender’s death, his family arranged for it to be restored and relocated to the Campus Center’s second floor, adjacent to the windows facing Weyerhaeuser Hall.
Winging to the West
This wooden sculpture by artist Philip Rickey is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Rudquist, a beloved Mac painting instructor who died in 2001. Installed in 2006 thanks to funding set aside by Macalester for Campus Center art, this sculpture made from American elm, black walnut, cherry, Siberian elm, and white oak hangs in that building’s center stairwell.
Dance of Reciprocity
One of the newest pieces on campus, this mural is located on the third floor of Markim Hall, in the Institute for Global Citizenship. Before he began painting last spring, artist Ta-Coumba Aiken invited Macalester community members to sketch their own interpretations of global citizenship—images he incorporated into the final product. At the IGC’s opening celebration in September, a contest and popular vote determined its title.
Isamu Noguchi, a seminal figure in American modernism, originally created this iron sculpture for the Tokyo offices of Reader’s Digest. A gift from DeWitt and Lila Wallace, it came to Macalester’s campus in 1965 in time for the opening of the original Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center building. This sculpture sits in the middle of a currently nonfunctioning fountain, on the art building’s south side.
Installed in 2008, this sculpture is rather hidden, located on the Olin-Rice Science Center’s south deck facing the athletic fields. Built by Helaman Ferguson and weighing 6,212 pounds, it was inspired by a shape related to energy-minimizing surfaces that arise naturally in the physics of soap bubbles. Before it was commissioned in stone, the design was created for a 1999 snow sculpture competition by a team including Ferguson, math professor Stan Wagon, former Mac math professor Dan Schwalbe, and Tamas Nemeth ’99.
Located just inside the front door of Kagin Commons, this terrazzo floor memorial was donated by the Class of 2001 as part of the Kagin renovation project, which wrapped up in 2002. Stan Sears and Andrea Myklebust ’95 created the memorial with epoxy terrazzo and water-jet cut materials. It honors Paul Pellowski ’01, a classmate who died shortly before his graduation.
Another Stan Sears and Andrea Myklebust ’95 creation, these eight carved limestone seating elements and pair of columns were installed in front of Kagin Commons in 2002, thanks to arts funding set aside for the Kagin renovation. Sears and Myklebust incorporated imagery from classical drapery, and the columns’ inspiration comes from patterns found in textiles and spools of thread. “These abstract sculptural forms,” Myklebust says, “suggest a narrative central to the liberal arts: the gathering together and ordering of many different strands—of experience, courses of study, cultures, and individuals—to form a whole.”