By Tanner Kent
---- — When Roger DaWald attended then-St. Cloud College decades ago, he didn't think much of his art classes.
"I was mad at the time because they made me take music and art," he said. "And I just wanted to learn to make a living."
During a long career as an insurance agent and, later, the owner of his own agency, DaWald had little time for art. Even after retiring and moving to Mankato six years ago, DaWald never even considered the pursuit.
Even in the pre-dawn stillness of Dec. 2, 2012 — the very morning on which DaWald snapped the photo that will be on display as part of the members' exhibition at the Carnegie Art Center that opens today with reception 7-9 p.m. on Saturday — he had no intention of creating a piece of artwork.
Still, after setting his eggs in the handles of a pair of scissors (to keep them from rolling off the counter, of course), DaWald was amused by the suggestion of eyes, face and legs. He drew a small, blue bead on each egg and took a picture.
"It was just something I did to entertain myself before my wife woke up and the paper arrived," he said. "I'm certainly not a planned artist. I wasn't looking for a photo."
Yet, his work seems at home in the motley and miscellany of the Carnegie members' exhibit, which includes more than 80 works submitted by dozens of Carnegie members. The exhibit also serves as an unofficial kickoff to the Carnegie's $200,000 lift-installation project that is intended to make the historic building handicap-accessible.
Because the building is considered a historic landmark — it was built at the turn of the 20th century as a public library with funds from billionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie — a number of preservation guidelines had to be considered by facility officials. After exploring several options, the decisions was made to pursue a lift that would be constructed on the back side of the building.
For the members' show, the $10 submission fee for each piece of art went directly into the project fund.
"This project will finally allow all artists, Carnegie members and members of the public to have access to this building," Carnegie director Hope Cook said.
For Carnegie's members' exhibit, artists of all stripes and skill sets were free to submit. The result is a delightfully broad and diverse arrangement of works created both by veteran artists and those like DaWald with limited or no artistic experience.
In fact, DaWald's wife is also participating. After opting not complete a grid drawing he had started during a class at the Carnegie, Margaret picked it up and finished it herself.
"I took the class, but she finished it," DaWald said. "She had never done anything like that."
Sonja Johnson's name might be similarly unfamiliar to Mankato art connoisseurs — but not because she's an occasional artist.
Rather, the Thompson, Iowa, resident has been painting her whole life, applying her impressionist style to rural scenes and farm animals. Just this past year she hosted solo exhibitions in Forest City and Fort Dodge (both in Iowa).
But it was only a few weeks ago that Johnson found the Carnegie Art Center. Though she's already applied to host a solo exhibit at the Carnegie in 2014, the members' exhibit will offer this area's first glimpse of her work.
"I needed some culture and started checking out some art places," Johnson said. "I was so impressed when I found the Carnegie."
For more information about the Carnegie or its lift project, visit www.thecarnegiemankato.com or call 507-625-2730.
Gift shop open houses benefit local artists MANKATO -- Local artists and non-profit art programs will benefit from every purchase of handcrafted gifts during a series of holiday open houses at the Carnegie Art Center gift shop. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the next three Saturdays -- Dec. 7, 14, and 21 -- shoppers can enjoy free hot cider while choosing from items created by 50 local artists. New works include hand-painted greeting cards, ornaments, wine racks and other woodwork, jewelry, scarves and mittens, hand-blown glass, bronze sculptures, and more. The gift shop will remain open during the Carnegie's regular hours 1-7 p.m. on Thursdays and 1-4 p.m. on Fridays. Details are available at www.thecarnegiemankato.com or by calling 507-625-2730.