SPED has close ties with a young local artist

MINOT, N.D. – It is easy to make close ties and connections while at Minot State, however Virginia Conn, a local artist and junior at Minot High School, doesn’t even need to be a current Minot State student to do so.

In coordination with rewriting the special education department’s mission, vision, and strategic plan, assistant professor and department chair Holly Pedersen looked to support a local artist for a painting commission to showcase what the special education department represents on campus.

Conn came to mind.

“I have known Virginia through her parents who work here (associate professor of teacher education Daniel Conn and administrative coordinator Linda Conn), and she’s the same age as one of my children, so they know each other from school,” Pedersen said. “Through social media, I had seen a lot of Virginia’s art as she’s grown the past few years, and as a teacher that’s always fun to see how kids are growing and developing. So I knew she had this talent, and I thought that perhaps this would be a great way to get an original art piece in our office as well as give a local youth some chance to have a piece of what goes on at MSU.”

Pedersen gave Conn free reign to do what she wanted for the commission, but with one condition: Conn had to use a quote for inspiration.

“It says in our vision statement that we believe diversity is a strength for all of us,” said Pedersen. “I had seen this quote that said, ‘you don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note,’ and it just resonated with me. That’s a really great model for what we’re trying to achieve in special ed. Everyone, including people with disabilities, has something to offer in our society, and if we leave anybody out, we don’t get that harmony that we’re looking for. If we’re all doing the same thing, it’s pretty boring.”

This gave the artist an idea.

“She sent me a photo of the quote with a piano in the background, and I kind of liked that concept,” the artist said. “I just love the piano and I figured it would be nice. I’m used to doing portraits and people, so this was kind of a fun way to experiment and adventure with my art.” 

“I think it went pretty well. I’m probably not the best out there; I know I’m not the best out there at doing things like that,” she humbly added, “but I think it was really good for me not to be so tunneled in my work.”

Beginning when she was a toddler, Virginia Conn has a rich history of making art.

“When I was a kid, I used to do art on my parents’ walls; I think that’s where a lot of us kind of start out,” she said. “Mom thinks it looked good, but she’s probably just being nice. I kind of just kept going, and it was a place where I could find a lot of inner peace, and it was meditative for me.”

On top of completing her first commission for professor Pedersen, Conn has worked with several other faculty and staff members at Minot State, including painting a homecoming float for student activities coordinator Aaron Hughes and the set for the operas “Hansel and Gretel” and “Orpheus in the Underworld” working with Susana Amundarain from Minot State foreign language and assistant music professor and maestro of the Minot Symphony Orchestra Efrain Amaya.

“One of my big influences, she’s Maestro Efrain’s wife, is Susana Amundarain. She kind of pulled me into this abstract realm. I tried to put that into the piano piece. Efrain and I, we like to go biking together, and we just kind of get to talking about these things too,” Virginia Conn said.  “Also Dr. Harry Hoffman in sociology, he’s just been such a big influence on me, and he’s been buying my work actively. I have a lot of sociology in mind in my work, and I just think it’s really cool.”

Although Virginia Conn is only a junior in high school, she already has plans for college.

“I would love to go here. I just love so many of the professors,” she said. “MSU is such a nurturing environment. It’s a good place for an artist.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 02/14/20   

» More MSU News