Hoedeman Gallery installations celebrate art and interreligious dialogue
Along the busy thoroughfare connecting the northernmost residences to the rest of the campus is a sign indicating a break, no flashing yellow light or sign of surrender is required.
Traffic sometimes slows down in this main access corridor to the Iversen Center for Faith, which now features the very first exhibitions of the new Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art. It is a space that, according to Father Larry Snyder, vice president for mission at the University of St. Thomas, celebrates both the artistic expression of different faiths and the way the arts bring people together.
Until recently, the Hoedeman gAllery of Sacred Art the walls were white and empty, Snyder said. “Now that the art is here, it’s as if the building comes to life and the space has found its purpose. ”
Snyder said that although St. Thomas is a Catholic university, many faiths, religions and traditions are represented and celebrated on campus. The Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art itself is a physical representation of this. The three alcoves of the gallery present three distinct exhibitions, two of which will rotate on a six-monthly schedule.
The Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art signage honoring Fred and Mary Hoedeman is revealed during a private tour of the Iversen Center for Faith on St. Paul Campus on November 6, 2020. The art installation was added in 2021. (Liam James Doyle / University of St. Thomas)
The first alcove, the most northerly, features the “Interfaith Prayer Wall”, a collaboration of Jewish, Christian and Muslim artists. The featured artists are all women who participate in the Interfaith Artist Circle, a group of 19 Artists based in the Twin Cities who regularly study, pray and create art together. Artist Aimee Orkin, bound the individual parts into one via architectural elements modeled on the temple of Solomon, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the shape of a prayer niche, or mihrab, located in Iran.
Their art can be found in St. Thomas, in the Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art, but also in a virtual gallery, Visual prayer, sponsored in part by the Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at the University of St. Thomas. At 7 p.m. on Thursday March 18, three of these artists – Renanah Halpern, Hend Al Mansour and Beth Andrews – will headline an artist’s fair at the annual St. Thomas Sacred Arts Festival. Hosted by St. Thomas Professor of Theology Corri Carvalho, artists will share the roots and impact of their work.
The second rotating installation is a collection of Christian art from around the world, including Japan, Central and South America, Africa and beyond. On loan from St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis, the pieces represent the diversity of Christian tradition.
Snyder said St. Thomas is planning two educational events this spring, including a conversation with the basilica’s director of liturgy and sacred arts, Johan Van Parys.
The Interfaith Prayer Wall will be on display in the Hoedeman Sacred Art Gallery through April and in the Basilica Collection through August. The gallery’s normal schedule, however, will align with the academic calendar with new exhibitions scheduled for September 1 and February 1..
“That’s the beauty of it,” Snyder said. “It gives us the opportunity to really expose the college community to a lot of different styles of art,” Snyder said.
However, common ground is revealed in the very diversity of the art, Snyder said. Whether the same words or rituals are used, Snyder said he has common ground in realizing that all of the spiritual beliefs and practices represented in the gallery are designed to bring us closer to God and the common good.
“At the end of the day, we as Catholics are not the only ones who have the bargain for the common good,” Snyder said. “Everyone should stand up for the common good and whatever it takes for us to work together to find it. I really think where the students learn to do this, where they practice it, is a university.
Since the art was installed, Snyder said he saw students come out of the hallway, sit and admire the art. Classes also gathered in the gallery to discuss and reflect. These moments, he said, bring the mission of Saint Thomas and the gallery to life.
“Our university is this amazing training ground for how you’re going to live the rest of your life,” Snyder said. “We’re always going to meet people who are of a different race, who have different beliefs. So here we learn to communicate with them in a positive and community-building way. “