The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 10, 2013

Hillstrom displaying recent acquisitions to permanent collection

By Edie Schmierbach

---- — ST. PETER — Unknown to some, the Hillstrom Museum of Art fulfills holds a large permanent collection of prints, paintings and photographs that have been donated to the college or have been purchased with donated funds.

Recent acquisitions to that collection are now on display, one of the three exhibits showing concurrently in the gallery on the lower level of Gustavus Adolphus College's Jackson Campus Center.

Most of the recent acquisitions are being shown for the first time on campus. These landscapes, seascapes and figure sketches were provided by former faculty members and alumni, as well as the son of Henry Varnum Poor, an artist who was influential during the first part of the 20th Century.

Two pieces selected for the show are by artists teaching in the college's studio arts program. Priscilla Briggs, who teaches digital and darkroom photography classes, donated a Lightjet print — "Old and New (Wenzyou)." The photograph was part of her 2009 exhibit at the Hillstrom, "Fortune: Photos of China."

Gustavus art instructor Betsy Byers made a gift of an oil on canvas after Hillstrom director Don Myers approached her with a request for one of her paintings. The donated work, "Beckon II," is now on display at the Hillstrom.

"It was a good choice," Byers said. "It was created with help from a research and creativity grant from Gustavus. The grant allowed me to work on the shores of Lake Superior."

Byers is happy to have the painting remain in the permanent collection and contribute to the college's history.

"After I am retired and long after I am gone, it will still be here," Byers said.

Former students also have contributed to the collection, including Ann (Komatz) Basset and her husband, Gene, of St. Peter, who gifted a Robert Fawcett drawing, "Reclining Female Nude," to the museum.

Also in the show are a lithograph on paper, "Seed Time and Harvest" by Grant Wood, and a watercolor, "Poplars on Hillside" by Allen Tucker. Both works became part of the collection as a result of the gallery's namesake. The art museum is named after one of its most passionate supporters — the Rev. Richard L. Hillstrom.

A 1938 graduate of Gustavus and a native of Dassel, Hillstrom began collecting art in the 1940s, when his ministerial career was just beginning. It was to become a lifelong passion, one that continued after his retirement, when he took a position in 1982 at Lutheran Brotherhood in Minneapolis. Hillstrom's duties included building the financial services company's renowned collection of religious art.

In his own collecting, Hillstrom initially concentrated on Swedish-American artists. Soon he branched out in other directions, focusing on more mainstream artists, especially American artists whose works concentrate on the human figure. His 300-plus piece collection highlights are pieces by The Eight, American artists who dedicated their efforts to connecting art directly to life and members of the Regionalist School of American art.

Hillstrom's many donations to Gustavus include a large number of art works by significant American artists. The permanent collection of the Hillstrom Museum of Art reflects his keen eye.

In 1993, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts exhibited "American Masters Selections from the Richard Lewis Hillstrom Collection." The show's catalog described the show allows a glimpse into the past to see how American artists responded to their social and natural environment.

In an interview published in the catalog, Hillstrom discussed his deep interest in American art, especially prints and drawings and what it was like to be collecting at a time when he had financial restraints but American art was considerably lower priced than now.

Potential donors who want to contribute to the permanent collection, either for purchases of artwork or to increase the endowment fund, should contact the museum: 507-933-7171.

If You Go What "Recent Acquisitions and Debuts," works from Hillstrom's permanent collection. Also showing is "Associated American Artists: Art by Subscription" and "String Theory and the Superconducting Super Collider Series: Paintings by Lucinda Mason. Where Hillstrom Museum of Art, located on the lower level of C. Charles Jackson Campus Center at Gustavus Adolphus College When On display through Nov. 10