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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Professor Fred Hagstrom reflects on life at Carleton

<ed Hagstrom has been a professor at Carleton College for 33 years, and the job, he says, has been incredibly rewarding. The first in his family to attend college, he studied art at Hamline University and at the University of Chicago, and later attended graduate school in Nebraska. After completing his MFA, Hagstrom studied under the well-known print-maker S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris, and in doing so, created a name for himself in the print industry. For many winters, Hagstrom has led an off campus studies trip to the South Pacific that focuses on Studio Art.  

Students who have been exposed to the Art and Art History department or the special collections section in the library may recognize Hagstrom’s name on a number beautifully crafted artist books. With Hagstrom’s initiative and the enthusiastic assistance from Carleton’s library staff, the school now possesses a collection of these pieces, which range in length, size, subject and medium.

Hagstrom’s interest in books arose around ten years ago and was inspired by his students. “They are all so narratively driven,” he explained. Hagstrom’s drive, combined with his knowledge of print-making, seemed to lead him naturally toward artist books. His collaboration with students has been one of the most rewarding parts of working at Carleton. Their passion, creativity and different perspectives, he reflected, have changed his approach to art over the years. Carleton has brought him many surprises–an initiation into the world of artist books being one, and an opportunity to travel being another.

The first in his family to travel abroad, he continues to stress the importance of the experience. “Off-campus studies are incredibly important. I tell this to my advisees, and I think it’s important for everyone to hear,” he said. “Some people get into it too late, and they let an amazing opportunity that could have been perfect for them pass them by,” Hagstrom said. “The off-campus programs are really generous and very important, good for students and good for the faculty.” He learned as much as the students did from traveling and leading the program, developing an interest in the art of Indigenous Australians that is disappointingly not a popular subject.

The Studio Art program is a ten-week experience consisting of three classes. Students learn drawing, print-making and take a class on social issues, and the ecological and cultural history of the places they visit. While there is no assigned project, they draw almost every single day.

As it is summer in New Zealand during Carleton’s winter term, students on the program can usually stay in dorms of empty campuses, and use or rent the studios in various cities. On the trip, the students also learn about the physical and cultural environment, usually from a naturalist or a biologist that the program hires. The history of aboriginal Australians, the Maori and Pacific Islanders is an important part of the program.

While the program will only run one more year, Fred still encourages people to pursue interests in the South Pacific. Student works are currently on display in the Weitz Center at the South Pacific Art Show, along with some of Hagstrom’s own pieces. He found his own college experience to be life-changing, and wanted to somehow remain a part of that world.

Carleton allowed Hagstrom to both help shape the lives of college students and find personal growth, providing opportunities to pursue his own interests and amazing travel experiences for himself and his wife to enjoy.

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