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                                                                                                        For Immediate Release     
March 10, 2014

Sister Mary Charles: Engagement and Transcendence


WHERE:   Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth

WHEN:   June 3 – September 21, 2014

The Tweed Museum of Art is pleased to announce a new exhibition featuring the work of Sister Mary Charles McGough (1925-2007). The exhibition is a collaboration between the Tweed Museum of Art and St. Scholastica Monastery, and has been guest curated by Peter Spooner. Engagement and Transcendence is the first treatment of this prolific and regionally beloved artist, whose career spanned sixty years. The Monastery holds much of Sister Mary Charles’ art and archive and has published a book about her art and life. The book, Saved by Beauty, will be released in conjunction with the exhibition opening.

Born Mary Helen McGough (“Mc-Goo”) in 1925 in Cloquet, Minnesota, she was the eldest daughter in a Duluth family strong on Catholic Irish heritage, but poor and struggling. Her creative talents were acknowledged at Cathedral (now Marshall) High School, and she entered St. Scholastica Monastery directly from high school. With the encouragement of her monastery, Sister Mary Charles studied art and education at the exact time the Catholic Church sought to reinvent its public face for the modern world, through a self-assessment known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II (1962-65). The Benedictine Order had always nurtured its artists and artisans, and Vatican II further affirmed the important role of the arts in Catholic ministry. 


Sister Mary Charles received a Master of Education Degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Notre Dame University in 1964. One of her important teachers and mentors was the printmaker Irving Amen (1918-2011), whose influence can clearly be seen in her prints.  The focus of her early artwork was woodcut prints, often depicting young people as they explored play, nature, and art. Her prints were popular and widely collected by Duluthians.


Sister Mary Charles worked in an amazingly wide variety of media, including fabric banners, graphic design, ceramics, wood carvings, mosaic and stained glass. In 1990 she studied traditional icon painting, and created over eighty-five religious icons in the last two decades of her life.  Her works grace churches in seven states, and many can be seen in churches throughout the Northland.  

The artist taught in the Catholic schools of the Duluth Diocese and from 1956 to 1964 was head of the Art Department at The College of St. Scholastica. Convinced that making art, not college administration, was her true calling, she petitioned superiors to let her establish an art studio in an old carriage house on the McCabe property in Duluth’s Hunter’s Park neighborhood. They agreed, and “The Barn” was renovated by community volunteers and donated materials. With other Benedictine Sisters she taught a popular summer arts program for children ages 7-13, exposing them to all art media along with experiences in theatre, science, writing, music and dance.  Sister Mary Charles believed that experiences with art opened people up to positive experiences of all kinds. “The Barn” program became a model of progressive, multidisciplinary arts education.  Hundreds of its participants fondly remember their experiences there.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Tweed Museum of Art

Sunday, June 29, 2014, 2:00 pm and Saturday, July 19, 2014, 2:00 pm, Tweed Museum of Art

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 2:00, Saint Scholastica Monastery Chapel, organized by Saint Scholastica Monastery.
For information about this event contact: Vicky Siders, St. Scholastica Monastery, (218) 723-6540



UMD University for Seniors Lecture Series: “Sister Mary Charles – One Person’s Impact” by exhibition guest curator and Sister Mary Charles book essayist Peter Spooner 
Monday, May 12, 2014, 11:30-12:30 - UMD Kirby Plaza 309. This lecture is free and open to the public.

UMD University for Seniors 4 week Short Course: “Sister Mary Charles: Engagement and Transcendence” Wednesdays, April 23, 30, May 7, 14, 9:30-11:30 - UMD Kirby Plaza 309. Led by Peter Spooner.
This four-week class is for individuals who are 50+ years of age and who participate in the University for Seniors Program. Individuals can view program details, register online, and see other lifelong learning courses at
For information call 218-726-7637 or email




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