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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

Art history, revisited

By Lauren Hoffman
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 24, 2004

Keeping in tune with St. Olafs storied art tradition, the Friday opening of "Body Maps" was business as usual. Ever since the days of the now-defunct Steensland Art Gallery, St. Olaf has had a long-standing reputation of bringing new, innovative and diverse exhibits to campus.

Originally the Steensland Library, the classic brick building situated next to Old Main was once home to an exhibit from the private collection of Richard Tetlie 43 in 1974. Major renovations to the space took place over the next two years, and in 1976, the Steensland Art Gallery officially opened.

Over the years, Steensland has housed single-show and traveling exhibits as well as student and faculty work. The Tetlie collection exposed the St. Olaf community to the works of Picasso, Munch, the ancient Greeks and many more.

In 1976, Steensland presented an art exhibit kindred to "Body Maps"  an exhibition of South African arts and crafts. The exhibit, which featured pots, weavings and other media common to South African culture, paid testament to the gallerys ongoing commitment to presenting an ethnically and geographically diverse body of art.

This commitment continued to be carried out even in Steenslands final days as a gallery; in the fall of 2000, Steensland presented "Between Space and Time," the first exhibition of work by Norwegian sculptors displayed in America.

In spite of the culturally diverse art so often displayed in Steensland, many Oles are quick to cite student and faculty work as being the most memorable; even today, these shows are considered to be the cornerstone of St. Olafs art exhibitions.

In 2001, Dittmann Center opened, and with it the Flaten Art Museum. Flaten shares with students and faculty similar exhibits to those that formerly graced Steensland, but this new space has revealed a renewed interest in the gallerys offerings.

Furthermore, the fact that Flaten is a larger gallery that offers greater climate control and security options than Steenslands small space has meant that a wider variety of artists and exhibits are considering St. Olaf as a venue for their art.

Since its inception, Flaten has housed a diverse array of artwork. Its halls have presented shows with media from neon lights to photography to sculpture, all with subject matter ranging from California nights to the human form to piles of dirt.

However, traveling exhibits like "Body Maps" are, and will continue to be, only a portion of what Flaten Art Museum has to offer. Combined with one-time exhibitions and student and faculty shows, Flaten provides a little something for everyone and will continue to do so in the years to come.

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