The Benedictine Sisters have always cherished the crafting of visual arts, architecture and music. They believe that creating beauty not only upholds their cultural heritage, but is a means of “spreading the Good News that God is the ultimate beauty the human heart seeks and finds” (brochure). From the beginning, the Benedictine Sisters used their talents to support themselves and to share their appreciation for art with the communities around them.
To commemorate the tradition and history of the arts, the Art and Heritage Place was built in the fall of 2000. It covers 9600 square feet of space and houses the Haehn Museum, which has nearly 4,000 artifacts, some of which date back to 1857, when the Benedictine Sisters first settled in Central Minnesota. The museum was named after Sylvester and Jacquie Haehn, who were major donors for its construction.
The Museum has three main areas: a workroom, a large storage area, and an exhibit hall. The exhibits display the artifacts to demonstrate the influence the Sisters have had on all levels of ministry. The first exhibit of the Museum was titled Pioneering Women 1857 to the Present. It presented six areas of life and ministry of the Sisters: Education, Health Care, Music and Liturgy, Visual Arts, Mission to the Ojibwa, and Mission to China. The exhibits to follow took closer looks into the life and ministries of the Sisters. The most unique collection is the vestments and altar cloths which demonstrate the exquisite needlework of the Sisters.
The Art and Heritage Place is located adjacent to the Artisan Studios. The Studios were originally a carpenter shop, but now they provide spaces for the Sisters to continue to craft their work and prepare it for sale. Being able to work together in the Studios, the Sisters have developed an even deeper sense of community. There have been many artists outside the Monastic community that have been able to rent and work within the Studios as well.
To show and sell the work of the Sisters, the Art and Heritage Place is also home to the Whitby Gift Shop and Gallery. The Gallery showcases the work of the Sisters and the other artists. It periodically changes so that works by all the artists who work in the Art and Heritage Place can be seen throughout the year. Around the gallery is the gift shop, where there is a wide selection of art for sale. The Whitby Gift Shop and Gallery was named for Hilda of Whitby, an English abbess of the seventh century who founded a monastery known for its culture, learning and good works.
The Art and Heritage Place welcomes the general public. Hours for the exhibits and hours can be found at Art and Heritage Place on the monastery website.
Renken, Carissa, “A Place of Art,” The Record, August 30, 2001, p. 5.
Special thanks to Sara Trent '08 for drafting this text.