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Taking research on the road

Augsburg student travels 900 miles in search of answers

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The last thing studio arts major Indra Ramassamy ’17 thought she’d get out of her course, Women and Art, was a life-changing trip and lasting friendship with an established artist. But it just so happened that Augsburg’s commitment to experiential education fostered a memorable experience for Ramassamy and cultivated skills that will prove useful throughout her life.

Ramassamy, an international student from Paris, was assigned to choose an object from Augsburg’s permanent collection of art and complete a research project resulting in a final paper, a speech, an installation, and a curatorial file.

“Augsburg expects us to discover things. We are encouraged to make deep connections with people, to find new ways to problem-solve, to make a difference.”  —Indra Ramassamy ’17

Ramassamy was drawn to a print by Nilda Getty called “Psychic,” one work in a five-piece series titled, “Life Series.”

“What drew me to this print was a sort of ‘motion’ around a white circular shape—to me, it represented the moon,” Ramassamy said. “We can see six female figures around the shape, but there is a possibility that these female figures might actually be one person at different moments.”

A little persistence goes a long way

In researching the piece, Ramassamy found that biographical information about the artist was limited. She was, however, able to locate and contact an art gallery where Getty had once exhibited. The art gallery contacted Getty about Ramassamy’s inquiry, and within a week, they were speaking regularly on the phone for Ramassamy’s project. A few weeks later, Getty and her son, Leslie, contacted Ramassamy and invited her to Colorado, offering to fly her out so she could complete her assignment.

Ramassamy gladly accepted. “It was about a lot more than the paper,” she said. “Through phone conversations and an exchange of emails, I had already made a connection with Nilda and was beyond excited to meet her.”

indra-2Leaving a lasting legacy

A few weeks later, Ramassamy was on a flight from Minneapolis to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a 48-hour stay. While there, Ramassamy toured Getty’s studio, met Getty’s family, learned how to use metalsmithing tools, and studied Getty’s artwork—from silk prints to photographs, metalwork to jewelry. She also visited Colorado State University where Getty taught metalsmithing in the Art Department.

When Ramassamy asked Getty about “Psychic,” Getty said the white circle represented both the world and the universe. But the artist also explained that it doesn’t matter what she thinks of the piece. What is important to Getty is the viewer’s experience with the art and the relationship formed with it.

Ramassamy was inspired by Getty’s work, by her outlook on art and life, and by her warmth and spirit. “One of the sweetest things was when Nilda told me her ‘greatest works of art are her children’—and she also asked me a lot about my own mom,” Ramassamy said. “I believe Nilda’s legacy will be what her children go out into the world and achieve.”

An Augsburg education is shaped by its global settings

Ramassamy is grateful to Augsburg for the whole experience. “There’s a culture at Augsburg to go the full extent—do as much as you can,” she said. “Augsburg expects us to discover things. We are encouraged to make deep connections with people, to find new ways to problem-solve, to make a difference.”

And that’s exactly what Ramassamy did.

Fun facts about Augsburg’s permanent collection of art

Andy Warhol’s “Liz”

Henry Lande’s minimalist sculpture, 24 Elements, stands outside between Urness Tower and Christensen Center at 33 feet tall.

A photograph of Gerda Mortensen vanished from Mortensen Hall (more than once) and reappeared at St. Olaf College.

Don and Dagny Padilla, avid art collectors, who gave dozens of pieces to Augsburg’s permanent collection of art, including Nilda Getty’s “Psychic.”

Jakob Fjelde’s life-size marble bust of Augsburg’s third president, Sven Oftedal, and Fjelde’s small-scale plaster copy, a recent gift from Melinda and Jim Kohrt.

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