The meaning behind artwork in the home

Published 9:21 am Friday, July 24, 2015

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

Keeping an especially cherished art object in my home is something I’ve thought about, but selecting just a single treasure from my collection for an art show seems like a challenge.

As I strolled around our home, three items jumped into my vision. The first was an unusual black and white art sketch of a beaver that, I recall, gained our son a ribbon at the Freeborn County Fair when he attended school here in Albert Lea.

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I also chose a multi-colored handmade cornhusk hand fan from Mexico, which reminds me of my Peace Corps training in the country over 50 years ago. The creation I ultimately singled out is called a samovar, which I would describe as a large, Oriental brass tea server. I then began to realize how much influence my family of origin values impacted my surroundings and lifestyle today.

Born in 1903, my professor father grew up on a farm in the Mount Pleasant, Iowa, region. Over the years his parents encouraged all three children to pursue higher education levels. In 1926 my father decided to use his education to teach high school science and traveled to Teheran, Persia, where he taught in a Presbyterian sponsored school for several years. He expressed a desire to travel to China, but decided against it because of the Great Depression in the United States.

He returned to the Midwest and received his doctorate in botany from the University of Chicago. He married a local Iowan, who also grew up on a farm, and they settled in Minot, North Dakota. While my mother gardened, learned photography and cared for their three children, my father taught science at Minot State University, where the Hoffman Science Auditorium is named after him. Learning became a part of our summer vacations, as our family took many day-trips to  nature areas to learn about local birds, berries, animals and vegetation.

Our home reflected our father’s travels, with colorful Persian carpets on the floors and brass art, including a large etched tray to hold a samovar. In these surroundings as a child, my values emphasized the importance of global travel, global art and global education, which strongly influenced my decision to join the Peace Corps from 1964 to 1966, serving in Venezuela to coordinate the formation of a handicrafts cooperative.

One of my major goals for the next decade of my life is to support the establishment of a memorial in Washington, D.C., for the 250-plus Peace Corps volunteers, including my direct supervisor, who lost their lives while serving their country — the U.S.

My family samovar is always on the oak mantel above the fireplace in our Craftsman home in Albert Lea. From Tuesday through Sept. 5 the samovar resides at the Albert Lea Art Center at 226 West Clark St. on display for the These Are a Few of My Favorite Things exhibit.

Come get acquainted with the samovar in its temporary home.


Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.