President’s Art Award: Hannah Calkins makes it to the dining room

Art is an important element of any college campus, and Gustavus isn’t an exception. From the infamous BC/AD (1973) sculpture outside of Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library to the large “tornado” statue outside Christ Chapel, Gustavus proudly displays hundreds of art pieces.
Senior Hannah Calkins is one of the many prominent artists who have their work installed on campus. Last spring, she received the 20/21 President’s Art Award for her outstanding work in photography. Her photographs are currently displayed in the dining room of the President’s House and will remain there for the rest of the academic year for visitors to enjoy.
“I felt very honored to have received this award,” Calkins said.
This merit-based award is juried by the Art and Art History Department faculty and is presented to a junior studio arts major after the Junior Art Major Exhibition.
“We look for work that is evocative and engaging,” Professor Priscilla Briggs said.
The four winning photographs are part of a series Calkins shot in Alaska.
“It was impossible to capture the beauty of the landscape in a single photograph,” Calkins said in her artist statement.
Her main focus with this project was light and how it can be used.
“I aim to create and capture beauty, and one of the ways I do that is by responding to lighting,” Calkins said.
In one of her pieces, entitled “Buskala View,” Calkins plays with this element quite a bit. In the scene, sunlight bounces off the water and casts beautiful shadows along the ground.
“It represents the feeling of waking up to the brilliant summer light of northern Minnesota bouncing off the water and peeking through the fir trees,” Calkins said.
Although she has always enjoyed making art, she didn’t always know she wanted to pursue it as a major field of study. It was Professor Briggs’ digital photography course that ultimately sealed the deal for her. “This class made me realize I was meant to be an artist,” Calkins said.
Displaying art on campus, especially student work, is an ongoing effort at Gustavus. The President’s Art Award started only four years ago when Art and Art History faculty were asked to create a piece for the President’s dining room. Instead, they proposed the creation of an award to recognize students and their artwork.
“We’re trying to make art more visible on campus,” Briggs said.
To contribute to this goal, Briggs also displays her students’ photography in the hallway between Jackson Campus Center and Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library.
Art is meant to be seen, so it is important that art becomes more visible on campus. However, it takes two to tango. As important as it is to make art on campus more accessible to the public, it’s equally important that the public actually takes the time to stop and view the work.“Part of it is on us to get it out there for people to see. The other part is for people to actually go and look at it and comment on it,” Briggs said.Although Calkins’ work isn’t installed in the most visible place on campus, it is still being recognized and displayed in a significant way. The President’s dining room has been used to host many alumni and fundraising events, although this year might have pulled in less visitors due to the pandemic.
Fortunately, this didn’t stop Calkins from enjoying and improving her craft, as she already has plans for future projects.
“Being awarded the President’s Art Award made me feel very confident as an artist,” Calkins said.
“I am currently working on a narrative series where I photograph my life and my experiences with the people and places around me.”
The 21/22 recipient of the President’s Art Award will be decided at the end of this academic year, but until then, Calkins’ beautiful Alaskan landscape will adorn the President’s dining room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *