Where worlds collide: Bringing art to a wider audience at St. Thomas

Where worlds collide: Bringing art to a wider audience at St. Thomas

Published March 6th, 2024 by Bridget Kranz

The university’s new John P. Monahan Gallery, located in a STEAM-focused academic building, showcases art for students across disciplines, as well as for the public


A new gallery at the University of St. Thomas offers a glimpse into the university’s permanent collection, as well as rotating exhibitions from both local and international artists. 

The John P. Monahan Gallery’s inaugural exhibition Seven showcases work acquired by the university from artists Jaida Grey Eagle, Mary Griep, Tia Keobounpheng, Kelly Kruse, Sarah Nelson, Mikayla Patton, and Bobby Rogers. 

It’s been a priority of university curator Marria Thompson to purchase more work by local artists, in addition to bringing out-of-state artists to campus, to expose students to a wide range of contemporary art and provide pieces that resonate with the campus community.

“The current exhibition showcases seven different artists that I’ve curated on our campus over the years,” said Thompson. “All of the pieces in the show are works that we’ve acquired, giving visitors an idea of where we want to take the permanent collection.”

On view through March 22, Seven also previews two works from Dannielle Tegeder, a New York-based artist whose solo show will open at the Monahan Gallery on April 11. 


Danielle Tegeder, Citrine Mirror Constellation with Unseen Other Worlds, 2021-23. Acrylic and flashe on canvas, 60 x 48". Image courtesy of the artist's website.


The gallery will close during the summer (except by appointment), and then reopen with Tegeder’s show still on view in the fall when Tedeger and her collaborator, conceptual poet and hypnotist K (Kristin) Prevallet, will visit campus.

Thinking ahead to Tegeder’s solo exhibition later this spring, Thompson says she’s long admired the New York-based artist’s work and hopes the show provides an exciting opportunity for students, faculty, and community members to see Tegeder’s paintings in person.

Bringing new artists and ideas to campus is a core tenet behind the Monahan Gallery, which is located in the newly-built Schoenecker Center. The Schoenecker Center was unveiled in February as “the university’s central home for STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art, and math] education.”


Seven, installation view (detail). Photo by Bridget Kranz.


Housing the gallery prominently on the first floor of the new building, St. Thomas faculty and staff hope that the art on view can offer a learning opportunity not just for art history students but for those in engineering, math, and sciences, as well. 

“For years we’ve been trying to make art visible on campus and have done a great job at this generally. But now that we are in a space with other disciplines that many will move through regularly, our outstanding exhibitions and collections will be right there for all to engage with,” said Victoria Young, PhD, a professor of art history. 

In addition to the gallery, there are several large-scale commissions in place and in progress for the Schoenecker Center. “The art on the walls in the rest of the Schoenecker Center keeps the significance of art present once visitors leave the gallery on the main floor,” Young added. 

One of the permanent art installations is a Portal Icosahedron by Anthony James, in the atrium next to the Monahan Gallery. Minneapolis-based artist Tia Keobounpheng’s WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE no9 is located on the third floor of the building, and she is working on a 10- by 20-foot commission to install in the center later this year. 


 Tia Keobounpheng, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE no9, 2023. Pencil, colored-pencil, and embroidery thread on wood,  48 x 72”. Image courtesy of the artist.


Geometry is an integral part of Keobounpheng’s practice, and she connects with the Schoenecker Center’s aim of interdisciplinary learning. Her current work consists of overlapping geometric patterns and was inspired three years ago by an assignment in her child’s distance learning class. 

“It was such a difficult time to be learning on the computer, and I started attending classes with him to make sure he could complete the assignments,” said Keobounpheng. “The exercise we did used a compass to create circles with the goal of eventually forming interlocking triangles.” 

Immediately, Keobounpheng was obsessed. Now, as she overlaps geometric patterns to create new expressions, Keobounpheng draws inspiration from the circular rhythm of nature and time. 

“The work I’m doing is rooted in the structure of geometry, but within that structure there are endless possibilities for me to play with,” said Keobounpheng. “It allows me to imagine something that I haven’t seen or experienced, and that imagination and creativity is not unlike making a scientific hypothesis.”

Examples of the creativity that goes into engineering are visible everywhere; for better or worse, the words “creativity” and “innovation” are often used hand-in-hand. But there’s also creativity inherent in making a scientific hypothesis. It takes a creative mind to imagine something new, something unestablished, something that, in Keobounpheng’s words, we haven’t seen or experienced — even if the first act of imagination is only to ask a question or put forward a theory for testing. 

The Schoenecker Center will feature permanent installations from five other Minnesota artists:

  • Local Ojibwe artist Frank Big Bear’s piece Ancestors is installed on the second floor of the Schoenecker Center.

  • Two large scale drawings from Alyssa Bagus that are based on tropical storm imagery from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites.

  • Painter Lindy Halleckson is working on a series of three paintings for the center which will be installed over the summer. 

  • St. Thomas alum Annie Hejny will be installing a “water painting” this spring, made using water and sediment she gathered with students in the fall.

  • Sonja Peterson will be installing a laser-cut metal piece this spring, featuring the architecture of the building alongside local flora and fauna. ◼︎ 


 Installation view of Portal Icosahedron by Anthony James outside the John P. Monahan Gallery in the Schoenecker Center. Photo by Brandon Woller, courtesy of the gallery.


The Monahan Gallery is located on the first floor of the Schoenecker Center on the University of St. Thomas campus, just inside the door on the southwest side of the building (in between Summit and Grand avenues).

Gallery hours: Tuesday 10am – 4pm, Wednesday 11am – 4pm, Thursday 10am – 8pm, Friday 10am – 2pm, Saturday 12 – 4pm, closed Sunday & Monday

Banner image: Anthony James, Portal Icosahedron (detail). Image courtesy of the Monahan Gallery Instagram page.

We can't do it without you.

Help keep independent arts journalism alive in the Twin Cities.