Fall Art Tour brought ‘good art’ to college campuses

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The Fall Art Tour on Saturday evening provided a unique opportunity for students and the public to explore the art galleries of nine Twin Cities colleges and universities in a span of just three hours.

Participants could hop on one of the shuttle buses running between the different campuses and see clay and metal sculptures, glass vases, photographs, prints and interactive exhibits.

“We want people to take advantage of art galleries that are close to home,” said Susan Focke, undergraduate program and exhibition manager for St. Thomas. “A lot of people don’t think of college art galleries as destinations to go and see good art. We’re trying to change that.”

The event is in its sixth year and was free. Food and beverages were also provided at every gallery. Participants could choose either an east or west route, depending on which galleries they wanted to see. Music was even included at some stops, like St. Thomas’ “Shiny is My Favorite Color” exhibit had a live band inside and a guitar player at the bus stop.

‘Shiny is My Favorite Color’

St. Thomas’ featured exhibit in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center contained artwork from nine different artists. Each piece incorporated a “shiny” element. Chief curator Shelly Nordtorp-Madson said the concept for the show was based on the idea that “shiny” is almost a color.

“The idea came from a young woman who as a child loved shiny things,” said Nordtorp-Madson. “One time her class was learning about the color wheel and they were going around saying their favorite colors. When they got to her, before she could say her favorite color, three of her friends shouted out ‘Shiny!’ That stuck in my head.”

One artist made life-size clothing out of copper and wire. She hand-knit the metal and wove the long ribbons of copper into a kimono and a jacket. Another artist used glass beads to create intricate designs, depicting flowers and landscapes, while another combined glass fragments and different textiles in colored glass panes.

Junior Amy Olson, who helped out with the exhibit, said her favorite piece was an interactive one called “Shine Me.” People could use rubber gloves and tear off pieces of wadding to clean the metal words of the sculpture which spell out, “Shine Me.”

“When most people look at art, they don’t feel connected to it,” Olson said. “Interactive exhibits like this one help people feel more engaged. I would come in for class everyday, and I’d shine it a little bit.”

Artist Donald Paul designed the “Shine Me” piece and a variety of smaller copper sculptures.

“I like to be able to piece things together which may look industrial but are decorative as well,” Paul said.

Other artists created glass bowls, shadowboxes made from polymer clay with detailed undersea scenes and metal sculptures of everything from an elephant in “The Thinker” pose to two children chasing after bubbles.

“My favorite piece was ‘Queen of the Night,’ with all the clay and different layers,” said senior Sarah Pikkarainen. “It sort of reminded me of something from a Smashing Pumpkins music video.”

One artist who usually paints older people put an unusual spin on her paintings to make them shine.

“Melinda Kordich grew up in the Serbian Catholic Church, which is a Byzantine-style church, so her paintings always looked to me like Byzantine icons,” Nordtorp-Madson said. “So she added shiny gold haloes to her paintings and now they look like icons of saints.”

Almost all the art work in the exhibit is for sale, with prices ranging from $30 to $5,500.

Art on other campuses

The other campuses showcased lots of work as well. Some highlights included Concordia University’s exhibit of photos taken exclusively by alumni, as well as an exhibit of prints and book art.

“My favorite exhibit at a different college was the book art with poems on the side at Concordia,” said freshman Brett Brones.

At St. Catherine University, the “Legacy of an Ecocide” exhibit showed the aftereffects of the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The photo series showed children with birth defects which were caused by the chemicals used during the war.

Another exhibit at St. Catherine’s contained a wide variety of art, including a floor-to-ceiling painting with splashes of phosphorescent yellows, electric blues and violets called “Night Swimming” and a sculpture called “Stay” with finely carved sterling silver feathers.

Northwestern College and the Katherine Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota were the two new additions to the tour this year. Last year, more than 350 people participated in the tour and the organizers of the event hoped even more showed up this year.

“I’m glad the schools put on something like this because it engages students and gives them access to art,” Olson said.

Katie Broadwell can be reached at klbroadwell@stthomas.edu