Having grown up in rural Wisconsin, Amy Rice ’93 had always anticipated a life of farming. From a young age, she had an appreciation for art and enjoyed depicting the beauty of nature in her sketches.
“I made art my whole life, but never let myself dream or be so bold as to think I could do it as more than a hobby,” she said.
When selling her produce at farmers markets, Rice would display sketches of her flowers and tomatoes, incorporating information about the plants into her sketches. She used the drawings as a backdrop for her produce stand to entice more customers. Soon, her art became popular at the market, and people started inquiring about purchasing her work. When Rice realized that she could earn more from her art than from her crops, she decided to turn her hobby into a profession.
In 2015, when Augsburg University launched an Art and Identity campaign, an initiative to bring original artwork into the new Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, Rice was already working on a long-term project to draw and write about every plant on her 40-acre northern Minnesota plot. Rice’s project connected science and religion by combining the documentation of plant life with the use of liturgical papers to form a type of collage. She also incorporated letterpress samples and her own Augsburg homework into the art pieces, making the project a perfect submission for the Art and Identity campaign.
When potential sponsors were invited to view sketches of the art selected for the Hagfors Center, Stephen K. ’67 and Sandra L. Batalden were immediately attracted to Rice’s “Six Minnesota Wildflowers to Meet and Know” sketches.
“We immediately liked her work,” said Sandra, who shares with Rice an appreciation for the letterpress printing 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 [that hosts] the life sciences.
“In addition to botanical accuracy, Amy’s drawings transport us into an entirely new realm as leaves and flowers become frames for musical scores or other chosen texts woven into each piece. What a creative, beautiful expression for a university of the 21st century.”
Rice’s artwork is displayed on the fourth floor of the Hagfors Center. Each of the plants depicted is native to Minnesota, and five of the six grow in the St. Croix River Valley where Augsburg students do ecological research. The five are snow trillium (Trillium nivale), eared false foxglove (Agalinis auriculata), spatterdock (Nuphar variegatum), obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), and sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). The sixth wildflower, the Minnesota dwarf trout lily (Erythronium propullans), grows in only three counties of Minnesota and nowhere else in the world.