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Campus & Community Fine Arts Student Features

CSB and SJU Senior Art Exhibition begins March 23

A number of ideas were thrown around when it came to choosing a title for this year’s College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University senior art exhibition.

But Molly McGowan, a senior art major from St. Cloud Cathedral High School, said “Before Knowing Why” was the choice that seemed to fit most completely.

“It feels like a lot of us started creating this work before we really knew what it was about,” said McGowan of she and the 15 other art majors whose work will be on display in the Gorecki Gallery in CSB’s Benedicta Arts Center and the Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries in the Saint John’s Art Building beginning March 23 and running through May 1.

“That development of art becoming something meaningful to us and pushing forward our group’s intrinsic motivation was a big thing. We did it all before we really knew why we were doing it, and the discovery that followed has made our work even more deeply personal.”

The annual exhibition marks the capstone for the senior art majors – having taken the two-part Senior Studio Thesis course, which consists of a full-semester, four-credit class in the fall and a half-semester, two-credit class in the spring.

The size of this year’s group of students means that – for the first time since 2018 – the exhibition will utilize gallery space at both CSB and SJU.

“I think that’s really special because it shows art is making a comeback,” McGowan said. “I actually started out in chemistry here. But I felt like I needed a break and decided to take an art class. I’d taken art all through high school. And when I took it again here, I fell in love with it.

“Now I’m on track to be an art teacher.”

McGowan’s work consists of beaded sculptures inspired by the way certain music makes her feel.

Elaine Rutherford, a member of the art faculty at CSB and SJU since 1998, said the work on display at the exhibition runs the gamut, utilizing a wide variety of media and processes to express their artistic content.

“For our seniors, this is really the culmination of their four years as art majors here,” she said. “But it also represents the results of their yearlong capstone projects in which they’ve explored what it means to dig deep and find their own unique and authentic voices as artists.”

Rutherford said the exhibition also provides students with practical experience when it comes to other aspects of what it is to be artists.

“An artist has to wear all kinds of hats,” she said. “It’s not just the romantic side – working away in the studio. There’s also publicity and networking required. Learning how to photograph and install work. Applying for grants and exhibitions.

“So many pieces go into it, and it’s our hope that by the time they graduate, our students have experienced most of those things.”

McGowan – who plans to begin student teaching next fall – said there’s something thrilling about preparing her work for public display.

“You spend the entire year crafting your project in a room and it’s something you’re doing every day,” she said. “But when it’s in a gallery with lights on it and people are seeing it, it really become artwork.

“That’s such a change in dynamic and I really enjoy it.”

To kick off the exhibition, formal receptions will be held on both campuses on March 23 – from 1 to 3 p.m. at the gallery at SJU and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the gallery at CSB. The participating seniors will also be holding artist talks in the galleries as part of Scholarship and Creativity Day on April 25.

The galleries on both campuses are always free and open to the public.