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Almost everywhere you look on campus, you can find artwork from the Luther College Fine Art Collection (FAC). Lithographs, paintings and photographs from the extensive collection hang on the walls of the Preus, Union and Olin Library. Sculptures of clay, stone, and metal can be found outside the CFL and inside the CFA, an often overlooked backdrop to the daily experiences of Luther’s students.

The Luther Fine Art Collection contains over 100,000 works ranging from local artists and alumni to Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso. The collection includes art from 500 BCE to the present day, but tends to focus on art and artists from the 20and century. While the collection focuses on regional artists and upper Midwestern subjects, it also houses a wide diversity of works by artists from around the world.

Although the collection and its curators highlight spaces all around campus, the FAC is a largely unknown entity in campus life. Associate Professor of Art History Kate Elliott is the CAF’s curator and leads the work behind the scenes to bring the huge collection to the public.

“What students find interesting is that we don’t have a museum,” Elliott said. “Some of our artwork is very valuable, but we are an open access public collection […] and we put them in meeting rooms. So when we do this we always run the risk of someone accidentally backing into a painting with a backpack or otherwise damaging the artwork. It’s a bit of a risk we take, but we think it’s important to get art out of the ground and out into the world for all of you to see and appreciate. Art doesn’t do anyone any good if it’s always in the dark.

By being an open collection around campus, the FAC brings all students closer to art, whether they are involved in it or not. It gives students a chance to interact with art in spaces beyond the CFA or other art buildings. Catherine Vitt (’22) is a student assistant at CAF and believes that it is beneficial for all students to be exposed to the impressive works she holds.

“Some people aren’t very interested in art, and that’s totally their prerogative,” Vitt said. “[Art] has its own agency as a thing, and you can choose to engage with it or not, and then the space isn’t dead. It livens up the space, and it’s really cool that different offices can choose what art they want and how they want their space to be, and it makes every place on campus feel a bit more vibrant.

The benefits of spreading the collection across campus make art as easy as looking at the nearest wall. By diversifying the visual components of the campus, the FAC animates the campus and gives a new aesthetic to otherwise sterile spaces.

Asked about the highlights of the collection, student workers reiterated the large number of works that the FAC houses. Ashley Schultz (’22) is another student working for CAF, and had a hard time picking a favorite from thousands of artworks.

“I haven’t seen them all because there are so many,” Schultz said. “I have a certain fondness for a pot we call the llama pot, I think it’s really cute. We have a piece in the CFA right now hanging on the second floor, it’s an abstract cathedral, I think it’s beautiful.

For students wondering where to start with the collection, a good place to start is to pay attention to the artwork on the walls of the classrooms and hallways they visit every day. For those interested in learning more about CAF or researching a particular piece of art, please visit https://fac.luther.edu/search/.