The first of eight exhibits for the 2022-23 academic year at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University has opened, and it may be one of the most thoughtful experiences on either campus in years.
Indigenous Survival, which highlights the work of some of Minnesota’s leading Native artists, is on display through October 29 at the Saint John’s Art Center. Travis Zimmerman ’94, an SJU alum who is site manager at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post for the Minnesota Historical Society, is the curator for the show. He has selected five artists and asked them to provide works depicting themes of survival and resistance for the exhibition.
Artists include Pat Kruse, Annette S. Lee, Steve Premo, Jonathan Thunder and Laura Youngbird. Kruse is a birch and needle artist who collects raw materials from birch trees and hogs for use in his exhibits, is a member of the Red Cliffe Band of Ojibwe in Wisconsin, and a descendant of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe . Lee, a professor of astronomy and longtime resident of St. Premo, a member of the Mille Lacs Band, is a painter and graphic designer. Thunder, a painter and digital artist, is a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe. And Youngbird, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Grand Portage Band, is a mixed media artist who combines drawing and painting.
“It’s especially timely with the connection that Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s have with Indigenous boarding schools, and some of these artists have their own connection to them,” said Becky Pflueger, who manages the galleries at CSB and SJU. “I don’t think anyone will want to miss the opportunity to see these works by important artists from across the state.”
Zimmerman is a member of the Native Nations Task Force that combines representatives from St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. John’s Abbey, as well as faculty, staff and students from CSB, SJU and St. John’s Preparatory School. The task force is involved in responding to and accounting for a history where Native Americans were sent to industrial schools and pressured to reject their culture and convert to Christianity. The Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict were involved in four such schools, among hundreds in the U.S. and Canada, although that connection has been broken for more than 50 years. In 2021, St. Benedict’s Monastery issued an official apology for its role in that history, and, for more than a year now, classes and presentations at CSB and SJU have been preceded by an acknowledgment of the land that references the school’s history. with dormitory.
Annette S. Lee, a former professor of astronomy at St. Louis State University. Cloud, created this painting, titled Pray and Create, in 2020. It is one of the works that will populate the St. John Art Center for the exhibition Indigenous Survival until October 29. There will be eight different exhibitions this academic year, four at St. John’s University and four in the Benedict and Dorothy Gorecki Gallery at the Benedicta Center for the Arts at the College of St. Benedict.
The effects of that history will show in some of the art featured. For example, one painting depicts a monk using a spear to stab a Native American crucified on a cross, with Jesus fleeing in the background. According to Zimmerman, Native art in any form is an act of survival, telling a story of resilience and adaptability. He said the show will illustrate not only how Native people “are still here, but that they will always be present and reflected in the fabric of American life.”
An artist reception will be held on September 8 and the Indigenous Survivance exhibit is made possible by grants from CSB and the SJU Indigenous Student Association, the Native Nation Relations Initiative and the Central Minnesota Arts Board.
The first show of the season at the Benedicta and Dorothy Gorecki Gallery at the Benedicta Center for the Arts opens September 5. It will feature the work of fiber artists Aspen Mahon and Jennifer Plas. The show is titled New Traditions: Transitions in Fiber Art. On September 15th there will be a reception for the artists and their works will be displayed until October 15th.
Mahon is a nurse at St. Cloud. Plas holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from St. Cloud State. Together, they blur the line between art and craft, bringing a matter of utility to their pieces. Is art made to be used, or just to be observed? They would suggest both.
“This will be their first show,” Pflueger said. “Some of their creations are wearable. You can see colored threads used in a blanket, where different colors represent different moods they may be experiencing at the time. Their pieces turn their feelings into visual events.”
The rest of the visual arts schedule includes: a show by photographer Xavier Tavera, Oct. 24-Dec. 3 in CSB; fiber art representing anecdotal architecture by Liz Miller, Nov. 8-Dec. 16 at SJU; a mixed-media show by art faculty members Scott Murphy and Elaine Rutherford, Dec. 12-Feb. 25 in CSB; a show by Minneapolis-based painter Erik Benson, Jan. 17-March 17 at SJU; a juried exhibit of ceramic art by The Color Network, titled Muliebris: Female Feminine Feminity, March 13-May 8 at CSB; and a celebration of senior art theses, April 1-May 6 at SJU.
The CSB Gallery is open from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Monday through Saturday. The SJU Gallery is open from 2-6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and on Thursdays from 2-8pm.