Artist Judy Saye-Willis - Installation Art Exhibit

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Northfield artist Judy Saye-Willis has created an installation art exhibit titled, “Where Are The Children?” The exhibit explores the lives of orphan children and beyond. An artists’ reception, that includes work from several Minnesota artists, will be held this Sunday, January 15 from 2-4 p.m., at the Owatonna Arts CenterHear an interview with Saye-Willis, and read more about the exhibit. Other participating Northfield artists include: Patsy Dew, Matthew Bunch and Kathy Anderson. The exhibit continues until January 29.

One might wonder: What was it like to be in an orphanage? How did these childhood experiences carry to the rest of their adult lives, to their children and to their children’s children? Are there orphans still today, but in a different way? Are the children safe? Are they cared for? Is it going to be O.K.?

Northfield artist Judy Saye-Willis, designer and visionary for the installation, explains her role in developing the theme using imagery from other artists’ works as well as her own to tell this unique story.  The topic is of personal interest to Saye-Willis because her own father was also an orphan. She says, “Installation art begins with an empty space that becomes filled with the artist’s message and the viewer is invited to become a participant.” Similarly, a child’s heart may have felt like an empty space yearning for something to fill its void, left in a state of unknown.

Drawing talent from several Minnesota artists, in various mediums, Saye-Willis’s overall design incorporates a variety of mediums — textile arts, photography, illustrations, writing, polymer clay and vintage props — to orchestrate this emotion-driven message.

The installation is site-specific as it lies on the very grounds of what was once the State School for Dependent and Neglected Children, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One can tour the State Orphanage Museum in an adjacent portion of the Arts Center, and interestingly, the art gallery’s north facing windows peer out to the old buildings where the children once stayed between the years of 1886 to 1945.  In fact, “Cottage 11” has been restored to its original state and is also available for tour on specific days and times.

This project is in cooperation with the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, through funding made possible by the Minnesota State Legislature and the McKnight Foundation.