Art Meets Science in Hagfors Center

Steve and Sandra BataldenSteve ’67 B.A. and Sandy Batalden say they were attracted to the “Art and Identity” project when they saw the “stunning” work of Amy Rice. Rice’s series, Six Minnesota Wildflowers to Meet and Know, was commissioned by Augsburg University for the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. “We immediately liked her work,” explains Sandy, who shares with Rice an appreciation for letterpress printing, which is featured in the works. “Not only is she using original materials in her paintings, but the unusual botanical subject matter seems to fit perfectly in a building intended for the life sciences.” In a recent donor statement, the Bataldens wrote that “beyond botanical accuracy, Amy’s drawings transport us into an entirely new realm as leaves and flowers become frames for musical scores or other chosen text woven into each piece. What a creative, beautiful expression for the university of the twenty-first century!”

Art and Identity

In her artist’s statement, Rice explains that she began her process by hand-drawing and hand-cutting stencils of rare Minnesota plants. “The plants are ‘painted’ in with a variety of antique and vintage paper: maps and plat books of Minnesota counties (I only used maps from counties where the plants are actually found), Norwegian-language liturgy from the 1870s, sheet music, handwritten letters from early Minnesotans, homework, biology textbooks and early Augsburg ephemera.” She notes that her interest in native plants connects to her Christian faith tradition. “It is the sacred trust we have been given to be stewards of our Earth. My Grandpa Ed, a seventh generation Midwestern farmer, knew the names of every plant on his large farm. He didn’t own them; he was responsible for them.” That, she wrote, was one way he modeled faith in action.

Beauty and Inspiration

Steve notes that the timeliness of the “Art and Identity” project captured his own and Sandy’s imagination. “We are living in a deeply troublesome and dangerous Trump era when, especially here in the Arizona southwest, walls are political symbols meant to divide sharply and impose barriers. What a wonderful idea for Hagfors Center to refashion walls as settings for beauty and inspiration!”
Augsburg commissioned Six Minnesota Wildflowers and works by other artists to express its core identity, grounded in durable faith, inclusion, and experiential learning. “Great universities manage to nurture creative artistic production alongside scientific discovery,” say the Bataldens, who have spent their careers in higher education. Steve is professor emeritus of Russian history and founding director of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Arizona State University. Sandy is a retired university librarian, bibliographer, and scholarly book editor.

Art to inspire: Karolynn Lestrud

Personal and public. Creative and practical. Forward-thinking and backward-knowing. By sponsoring “Both/and,” a custom glass art treatment for the skyway that links the library to the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, Karolynn Lestrud ’68 supports artist Teri Kwant’s effort to bridge disparate disciplines both figuratively and literally.Karolynn Lestrud on the skyway in Hagfors.

Kwant’s art will illustrate the transitional space by etching pairs of words from different disciplines into the glass of the skyway. Think: define divinity, probe force, radiate support, love density. When Lestrud, an English major who did graduate work in linguistics and considers word play a part of her life, first saw the proposal, she thought, “Fantastic! But then I started puzzling over the pairs that didn’t make sense—and thought aha! She got me! She made me ponder,” says Lestrud. “I hope students will react the same way, with their curiosity piqued as they stroll through. I wonder if they will write about their experiences, walking through this walkway of words.”

Words on the skyway windows will also make the glass visible to birds, so they don’t “smack themselves silly on the glass. I thought this was a brilliant solution to a real concern, and a very thought-provoking piece as well,” she adds.

Lestrud lauds the selection process, too. A resident of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, she volunteers for and supports various art groups, including those charged with choosing art for public spaces. “It’s such an interesting process, because you have people who know nothing about art but ‘know what they like.’ It’s hard to set up guidelines when you hear commentary like that,” she points out. “Many people want to go for something very representational, very safe, and in many cases, very uninteresting. But that didn’t happen on this committee.”

She served on Augsburg’s Art and Identity committee, which began discussing art when the Hagfors Center was “still a dream on paper,” working with architects to identify where artwork should go, what size it should be, and how it should be lit. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, people wait until the structure is inhabited before they start embellishing it,” she explains. “We seem to have an innate yearning to embellish our surroundings. The earliest people did cave drawings. The Victorians had every surface covered with doodads. So we’re following a very natural impulse, and I think it’s wonderful that Augsburg made the commitment to do this in a well-thought-out and big way.”

Once locations were selected and artist proposals solicited, committee members met with artists individually to field questions and fuel the creative mission through a deeper understanding of the building in particular and Augsburg in general. “That was also interesting and not always something that happens in the broader world,” Lestrud says. She was delighted to chat with Kwant, a public artist, director of RSP Dreambox, and frequent lecturer on experience design, environments, and communications for the U. of Minnesota School of Design and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Kwant will also create one-of-a-kind glassed-topped tables that are available for sponsorship.

Lestrud contrasts the Hagfors Center with the boxy, cement block structure of the old science hall. “When you walked in, all you wanted to do was get out again,” she remembers. “The art going into this new building will make it the kind of place that will inspire students, give them a mental break, and, I believe, encourage them to linger.”

Appreciation for the Interdisciplinary Inspires Art Sponsorship

Scott D. Anderson in a Norwegian-style sweater
Scott D. Anderson

As a young man just out of high school, Scott D. Anderson ’96 had already developed a love for drawing and painting. He had artistic talent, but the skills necessary to make a full-time living pursuing art were then beyond his reach. He became a chemical technician at 3M instead, launching a career that has helped him come full circle, back to his first love through philanthropy.

“Art inspires me,” says Anderson, who is sponsoring “A Song of Dust” by collage artist Stephanie Hunder in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion through the Art & Identity program. “Ever since I got my chemistry degree, I’ve wanted to give something back to Augsburg. I’m very grateful to Augsburg for giving me the opportunity to obtain a degree in science. Now I can return the favor.”

With the support of his employer, Anderson completed his chemistry degree through Augsburg’s Weekend College. It took him about six years while working full-time. He has been a regular donor to the Augsburg Chemistry Alumni Scholarship ever since, and he has also devoted more than 36 years to 3M, where he is now a senior research chemist in the Infection Prevention Division.

The art he chose for Hagfors Center is a 6’ by 12’ piece comprised of five panels, one of which had already been sponsored. Anderson will sponsor two panels, and 3M’s employee matching gift program will cover the remaining two. Stephanie Hunder, gallery director and art professor at Concordia University in St. Paul, uses printmaking and photography to create images of actual objects, such as branches and grasses pressed into paper, that often mimic scientific recording in some ways. Anderson spotted her work while exploring an entire room of art proposed for the Art & Identity campaign.

“What she put on the canvas was partly scientific and partly artistic, so it represented the sciences and the arts at the same time. In fact, it represents what I do now at 3M—chemistry, engineering, biology. It all flows together. It meshes,” says Anderson. “To see art on the walls when you walk around campus is pretty inspiring, at least for me.” The piece will appear with a small recognition plaque in a prominent hallway near the physics area in the Hagfors Center.

The Hagfors Center is slated to open next January. Meanwhile, though he is not yet ready to retire, Anderson is beginning to rediscover his talent for art, using pen and ink, watercolor, and acrylics in occasional projects. “Sometimes I surprise myself,” he says. “I believe it is important to mix art with academics, as well as mixing humanity studies with science.”

— Cathy Madison

Historian and Art Sponsor Phil Adamo

Phil Adamo perches on the arm of a chair, resting his elbow on a plinth displaying a bust in the Lindell Library
Photo by Stephen Geffre.

If you crossed paths on the Augsburg campus with history professor Phil Adamo, you would quickly learn of his enthusiasm for the history of the place. You may even hear him share one of the many stories that make Augsburg’s 150-year history so intriguing.

Phil Adamo came to Augsburg in 2001, after completing his PhD in medieval history at The Ohio State University. In 2015, he was named “Minnesota Professor of the Year” for 2015 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the same year he began as Director of Augsburg’s nationally recognized Honors Program. Since 2013, he’s been working with students on a history of Augsburg for its sesquicentennial celebration in 2019.

When asked what made him decide to sponsor a work of art for the Hagfors Center Art and Identity initiative, here is what he said:

Phil Adamo studies at a table with a student. They are surrounded by boxes of files and papers.
Adamo worked in the College archives with students, including Caitlin Crowley ’16, as part of a class documenting the history of Augsburg. Photo by Stephen Geffre.

“Most people don’t know I’m a bit of an art collector. I go to all the student shows and have purchased student self-portraits and other contemporary art. I’m a fan of art and want to support artists. When I found out about the Art and Identity initiative, I started looking at the portfolio of stories about the artists. In fact, I watched every video story on the various artists.

“I noticed the collection includes work by former campus photographer Stephen Geffre. Stephen and I have worked on several projects together over the years. In my current work, writing the history of Augsburg, Stephen took many of the images I’m using. I’ve also bought some of his photography. Then I found out he is a multi-dimensional artist, working as a sculptor. The piece he’s doing for the Hagfors Center appeals to me because it brings to life something of the College’s past. The elm trees in the quad hold a lot of our history. Continue reading “Historian and Art Sponsor Phil Adamo”

Bethlehem Lutheran Honors Quanbeck with Art Sponsorships

Phil Quanbeck speaks to a table of church members
Pastor Quanbeck leading his weekly Bible study at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

The Rev. Dr. Philip Quanbeck, Sr. ’50 is one of the most decorated faculty members in the history of Augsburg, even among the 80 or so Quanbeck extended family members in the Augsburg fold. So it is little wonder that he is also claimed by Bethlehem Lutheran Church, at 4100 Lyndale Ave. South in Minneapolis, where he became a beloved visitation pastor after retiring from teaching in 1993 and was named Pastor Emeritus in 2010. Bethlehem Lutheran has chosen to honor him by sponsoring two pieces of art in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“Everyone just adores him,” says Rianne Leaf, who chairs Bethlehem Foundation’s grants committee. “He is such a warm human being, and he has a wonderful way of drawing people out and involving them in discussions. He is not a lecturer as much as a leader, and his insights are profound.”

Phil Quanbeck in robes speaking at a podium
Quanbeck reading at Advent Vespers services in 2004.

Now in his mid-90s, Quanbeck still attends church on many Sunday mornings. He is known for arriving at 8 a.m. to hear the sermon, then adding its points to his Bible study discussion at 9 a.m. Forty to sixty people have often packed the room to participate in the lively conversations he guides.

“When Augsburg applied for a grant, we knew we wanted to honor him,” Leaf says. Although the $10,500 grant was approved a year ago, it was last November when Augsburg displayed more than 25 signature art concepts chosen for the Hagfors Center and invited potential sponsors to meet the artists. The Bethlehem Lutheran arts committee wasted little time deciding which to sponsor.

“We all immediately agreed on the sunburst. Then one of our committee noticed a beautiful woodsy landscape that reminded us of Phil and Dora and the cabin they love. The more we looked at it, the more intrigued we became, and we made a unanimous decision about 15 minutes later to also purchase that one,” Leaf recalls. “That was a fun process.”

the word "light," written in a dozen different languages, grouped inside a circle. From the border of the circle spirals a web of earth-toned cells with the look of stained glass
Let There Be Light, by Kristin Opalinski ’03.

The sunburst, titled “Let There Be Light,” will be a large three-dimensional piece of ceramic, glass, grout, and fiberglass by Kristen Opalinski ’03. The fine and studio arts graduate became a graphic designer and marketing expert and now uses her expertise to explore faith and social justice. Leaf says the piece reminded them of Quanbeck’s interest in and great respect for the world’s many religions.

A painting in different hues of green, portraying a lush growth of plants and ferns. Interspersed are various small symbols drawn in white. A pentagram, a labyrinth, and a yin and yang are among them.
Observation, by Tiit Raid.

The landscape artist is Tiit Raid, who hails from Estonia, earned his BA and MA degrees from the University of Minnesota, exhibits widely, and has worked from his Fall Creek, Wisconsin, studio for the past 40 years. His piece, “Observation,” is a 23” by 68” acrylic on paper piece mounted on a wood panel. It includes phrases along the borders, and he has agreed to incorporate some of Quanbeck’s words in the finished artwork.

Leaf said that the group was thrilled to learn, after choosing the pieces, that both were already slated for display in the religion wing. “As you come down the hallway, you’ll see the sunburst at the end. We loved that impact,” she says. “The other will go above a study shelf, where students will be able to study, philosophize and daydream while looking up at it.”

Leaf said the group is looking forward to meeting with Quanbeck to procure his favorite sayings. “He is so humble but so pleased that we are honoring him with this award,” says Leaf. “And we all hope to be there for the dedication in September or October.”

— Cathy Madison

Distinctive Sculpture Articulates Augsburg Identity

Sponsored by Jeff Nodland ’77 and Becky Bjella Nodland ’79Trans:Perspective: Bebe KeithChapel glass sculpture sponsorship.Sponsorship Level: $150,000
Trans:Perspective: Bebe Keith

“From the moment I heard that a chapel would be included in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, I wanted to design a piece of art for it,” said artist Bebe Keith. Her large 3-D glass sculpture will become a featured element of the building’s roof top chapel thanks to the sponsorship investment by Jeff Nodland ’77 and Becky Bjella Nodland ’79.

“One of the things that drew my attention to this opportunity is that Augsburg is recognized as the fourth most diverse and inclusive campus in the United States. The idea that people of all faiths and backgrounds will use the chapel space interested me while also presenting a challenge to me as an artist.”

Bebe Keith has been creating art professionally for about 12 years, mostly in the public art realm. “I usually create stained glass mosaics by hand for public spaces, primarily in health care. “When I got the Art and Identity committee’s call for artists I wanted to do something distinctive.”

Drawing on inspiration from scripture, her original design was all about diversity, connections and networks between people.

“When I presented my first 2-D design to the Art and Identity Committee, they really latched on to the idea but wondered if it could actually be produced in three dimensions, so I figured out a way to make that happen.”

She found a computer program that helped her illuminate what was in her mind’s eye. It worked. The design addresses the networking of the three disciplines of science, business, and religion was at the origin of her idea.

“I started with the idea of networks—dots with lines connecting with other dots with lines which connect to others and so on. The negative space is all triangles. So the idea of people as networks becomes forms.”

As Keith puts it, “Acceptance is the most important value to me. I love to imagine people coming together in harmony and peace. Acceptance is the ideal. I want to promote places and spaces where people come together and listen to one another. This chapel is a place for sharing ideas and taking them along with them into the world. It will be a quiet place and those ideas are all there for the visitor.” Continue reading “Distinctive Sculpture Articulates Augsburg Identity”