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South Dakota Art Museum receives grant to conserve Ada Caldwell artwork

In Estes Park by Ada Caldwell, there are many issues in this oil on canvas painting that can only be under a microscope.

Artist and professor Ada B. Caldwell played an important role at South Dakota State University. She led the art department from 1899 to 1936 and taught famous illustrator Harvey Dunn. The South Dakota Art Museum houses many of Caldwell’s works and nine of those important works are in need of conservation treatment.

The South Dakota Art Museum recently received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $22,003 to treat the nine works.

Most of these works have not been publicly displayed since 1940 because of their poor condition. Once the works are treated, they will be on display for the upcoming exhibition, “The Sea and the Land and the Sky: Harvey Dunn and Ada Caldwell,” scheduled for August 2016.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to have these important works conserved so they can be displayed,” said Lisa Scholten, coordinator and curator of collections at the South Dakota Art Museum. “The art museum’s mission is to care for our state’s art treasures and Ada’s pieces are certainly treasures.”

Conservation treatment of the artwork is being conducted by the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis and will take up to a year to complete. Each work requires specialized treatment that can only be done by expertly trained conservators.

“It’s important that we acknowledge Ada’s contributions to the state, SDSU and the Brookings community,” Scholten said. “Exhibiting her artwork is one way for us to honor her.”

Ada Caldwell

After her death, the 1939 college yearbook was dedicated to her because of her service to the State College and its students, and her leadership in cultural movements in Brookings and across South Dakota. She has since become, as Charles Sewrey stated in his 1959 history of the college, “one of the institution’s legendary figures.” Caldwell was recognized for her contributions toward visual arts and higher education with the dedication of Caldwell Hall in 2005.

Caldwell specialized in landscapes and adept in oil, watercolor, etching and woodcut prints.

Caldwell was also heavily involved in various organizations including the Professional Educator’s Organization, Brookings Woman’s Club, Young Women’s Christian Association, South Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs, Red Cross and Business Girls’ Club.

About South Dakota Art Museum
Since 1970, the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings has been a place for people around the world to enjoy the artistic legacy of South Dakota in all its diversity. Rotating exhibits feature Harvey Dunn, Native American art, Marghab Linens and Paul Goble; as well as exhibits curated from regional, national and international artists. The Museum has more than 7,000 objects in its collection including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, textiles, and ceramics. The Museum Store features jewelry, pottery and original works of art by local and regional artists in addition to books on Native American art and South Dakota history and culture. To learn more, visit, call 605-688-5423 and follow the Museum on Facebook and Twitter.