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Robert Aldern, Professor Emeritus of Art, Dies at 82

Robert Aldern, professor emeritus of Art and former department chair and Artist-in-Residence, died on Saturday, June 11. He was 82.

A memorial service was held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

Aldern served Augustana as a member of the Faculty from 1980 until 1991. After his retirement, he continued to be involved with the College as Professor Emeritus of Art and Artist-in-Residence, working to make arts-related initiatives such as the Hovland Center for Liturgical Arts a reality. Examples of his work include the reredos in Augustana’s Chapel of Reconciliation and the Triptych at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, among many others.

Prior to joining Augustana, Aldern served as Professor of Art and Chair of the Art Department at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Before that, he was South Dakota State University’s Artist-in-Residence. He also served as Artistic Consultant to Catholic Diocese of Eastern South Dakota from 1964 to 1966 and was director of the Sioux Falls Civic Fine Arts Center from 1961 to 1964.

You are invited...
Tribute Reception for Robert Aldern on Friday, July 8 from 5-8 p.m. at Eastbank Gallery (8th & Railroad Center, Sioux Falls)
Artwork by Robert Aldern
A Tribute to a South Dakota Original (Display continues through Friday, July 15)

Among his many honors, he received the Augustana Alumni Achievement Award in 1977; the Governor’s Award in the Arts for Distinction in Creative Achievement in 1997; and the Mayor’s Award for Achievement in the Arts in 2000.

Dr. Lindsay Twa, assistant professor of Art and director of the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery, spoke about Aldern’s accomplishments and contributions earlier this year during Augustana’s “Heritage and Hope” lecture series:

“Robert Aldern ... was influenced by the two founding lions of the department, Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple. Bob observed each artist balancing their teaching loads with their personal studio practices and the execution of public commissions in a range of media. Their art, while showing an awareness of modernist trends occurring in New York City, was ardently never just art for its own sake. Art was to be situated and incorporated within the artist’s own community. This is a legacy that guides the Art Department to this day—and is one of its greatest strengths.”

“He had the good fortune of beginning his art career in the 1950s at the same time that liturgical art was being reinvigorated in the United States. The growing liturgical arts movement sought to reconnect modern art and architecture to liturgical function, viewing it as a form of visual theology: the liturgy was art and art could be an intrinsic component of the liturgy. Numerous congregations, generations of worshippers and countless visitors who have experienced Aldern’s work in situ have benefitted from this confluence that resulted in nearly a half century’s worth of work. And we are incredibly fortunate to experience this expansive vision at every worship service [in the Chapel of Reconciliation].”

“We could say that retirement is the only thing that he has failed at in his life. And this, too, seems to be a part of the Augustana heritage. Our community is sustained by many former faculty and staff who continue to help out in countless large and small ways into their twilight years because they continue to be passionate about making this place as great as it is.”

“Bob Aldern [was] a guiding light for the art department and Augustana College; an emblematic of a future that always drew strength from the past, and of a past that is always generative of future endeavors. [His own words], an artist statement that is also poetry, which he wrote in 1991, [said it best]:”

“I want my paintings to seed my remaining seasons.

Through the textural changes of plowing, harrowing, planting, cultivating;
Growing to blossom

And yielding to harvest
To be disked and plowed again
For freezing snow and wind.

Now, resting is the time
For a gathering, scar soaked earth
Later carrying seeds to birth.”

Aldern received his BFA from Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, Hartford, Conn., and his bachelor’s degree from Augustana. He also spent a summer in training with famed artist Jean Charlot.