OWATONNA — As part of Owatonna Hospital’s 10th anniversary celebration this year, the medical center called for art by local artists, and a number of those pieces are now on display for this season of Healing Arts, which officially opened Tuesday and runs through the end of October.
Silvan Durben, creative director of the Owatonna Arts Center and the curator for Healing Arts at the hospital, began collecting pieces from Owatonna artists this spring, and it was “an ongoing process,” he said. “My biggest fear is having forgotten somebody.”
Artists could submit only one piece due to space constraints, and, naturally, “there’s no continuity of subject matter, other than all Owatonna artists,” so hanging this exhibition is similar to arranging the annual Steele County art exhibition, Durben said. “The goal is to showcase each piece so you really see it,” as “we have a lot of really good artists” with Owatonna connections, roughly three dozen of whom are featured in this exhibition.
Dallas Ketchum’s “Magnolia Hotel” watercolor is among the pieces on display, and Ketchum felt compelled to try painting the edifice when he alighted upon it on a trip to South Carolina, he said. Though no longer in use, the hotel was once a haven for black entertainers during segregation.
Ketchum prefers watercolor because he “still learning it” in many ways, he said. “I want to develop and explore it more.”
Acrylic is the preference of Keith Wohlenhaus, who submitted “Home of the Blues,” a painting of two blue jays, he said. Acrylic dries faster than oil painting, and “you can get the same depth of effect” with the former as the latter simply “by layering.”
Wohlenhaus suspected the “calm and peaceful setting” in “Home of the Blues” would be ideal for a hospital, he said. Additionally, “birdwatching is relatable to anybody.”
Though Wohlenhaus has technically been painting since high school, “life got in the way of a lot of what I’d been doing,” he said. “I’m trying to be more active with it now that I have more time.”
Lynette Yencho didn’t have to dig deeply into her art collection for her Healing Arts submission, “Best Friend,” featuring her dog, Molly, and cat, Gracie.
“It’s the one I most recently finished,” she said of the acrylic piece. “I took it right off the easel.”
As the painting depicts, her dog and cat are truly friends, she said. “They’ll sit on the back step together.”
Molly is a Great Pyrenees, and that breed is known for “protecting the little ones,” Yencho said. “She does that in spades.”
Another dog, Pippa, who belongs to Harvey Degen’s son and grandchildren, was also represented in this exhibition, in a pencil drawing.
When Degen’s son sent him a photo of a resting Pippa, Degen “had to do something with it, because it was such an unusual pose,” he said. Degen likes “to use all the mediums — switching around to keep from getting bored” — but because Pippa is a black dog, “pencil made the most sense” for the eponymous piece.