As I’ve written on these pages before, a group of Walker tour guides recently expanded their arts and culture horizons by travelling to Beijing and Shanghai and becoming immersed in both the traditional cultural environs, as well as the contemporary art scene. On a smaller, but still worthwhile scale, last week a group of 22 guides travelled to Rochester, MN for some exposure to the Southern Minnesota art scene.
On the way to Rochester we stopped at the Wells Fargo (formerly National Farmers Bank) in Owatonna, MN. Not widely known, the building, a stellar example of Prairie School architecture, was designed by Louis Sullivan and built in 1908. It is described on the National Register of Historic Places as “Green and brown terra cotta panels and blue and gold glass mosaic bands contrast with the reddish brick walls and the red sandstone base that anchors the bank to its site. Elegantly arched stained-glass windows are mirrored on the interior by murals of dairy and harvest scenes painted by Chicago artist Oskar Gross. The lavish organic ornamentation, designed largely by Sullivan’s partner George Elmslie, carries through all interior elements, from 18-foot-tall light fixtures down to the tellers’ window grills.”
First we visited the (relatively) newly remodeled Rochester Art Center. The building, designed by Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson is beautiful- attached to the Rochester Civic Center with a gorgeous atrium overlooking the Zumbro River. Without its own permanent collection, the center features a frequently rotating selection of special exhibitions. Currently a retrospective of work by Rochester native Judy Onofrio fills the main gallery, while 2 smaller spaces are taken up by film work by local artists techtonic industries and Norwegian artist Torbjorn Rodland. We were treated to guided tours by Education staff members Scott Stulen and Michele Heidel
We then toured the art collection of the Mayo Clinic. A staggering assortment of both contemporary and historical work that has been donated by physicians and patients over the years fills the Gonda building, designed by Cesar Pelli and opened in 2004.
Some highlights of the collection include great prints by Ellsworth Kelly and Joan Miro, enormous glass “chandeliers” by Dale Chihuly, as well as works by Jennifer Bartlett, Andy Warhol, Auguste Rodin, and many contemporary glass artists. The Mayo offers free public guided tours of their collection, as well as an audio tour. The Mayo’s philosophy involves not only physical care of the patient, but also emotional care through the inclusion of art and music. A lovely thought in today’s environment of managed care.