The Two Marys

Photo of Marilyn Chiat standing in front of a portrait of herself and Mary Lodu
On Purpose exhibit

In 2018, Twin Cities photographer Xavier Tavera produced nearly 60 portraits representing the people and mission of the UMN College of Liberal Arts on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. To portray the Department of Art History, Tavera photographed Marilyn Chiat (PhD, 1979) and Mary Lodu (BA, 2016) in an image that the Department has come to call “the two Marys.” The large, 3½ x 5 foot photograph now hangs in the unit’s main office in Heller Hall. As we look ahead to Dr. Chiat’s upcoming lecture on Friday May 11, 2023 (see details below), we thought we’d catch up with where both of these esteemed alumni are now. 

Marilyn Chiat earned her PhD in art history from the University of Minnesota in 1979. She has since authored four books on religious architecture spanning many time periods and regions. Following her studies, she worked as an adjunct professor at the University in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures from 1983 to 1995. Presently, she continues to publish and lecture on religious art and architecture at numerous universities, colleges, seminaries, and historical societies. From 2003 to 2019, Chiat served as a historical consultant for Friends of B’nai Abraham. She is currently co-directing a project funded in part by Legacy Grants from the Minnesota State Legislature and in conjunction with the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota to research the early development of ten Twin Cities’ neighborhoods and their places of worship. Chiat also serves as a consultant on the preservation of and reuse of religious properties and for public television documentaries including “Cornerstones” and “Building America.”

On Thursday, May 11 (at 9:30 AM), Dr. Chiat gives the keynote address for the two-day symposium, “Art and Faith Bridging the Jewish and Black Communities: Stories of a Historic North Minneapolis House of Worship.” Held at the UMN Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (2001 Plymouth Ave North, Minneapolis), this event is a two-day community-oriented opportunity to learn about and engage with the intertwining histories of the Jewish and Black communities in North Minneapolis. Learn about these marginalized communities through stories related to a landmark building that has served as the spiritual home of two congregations: the Jewish Tifereth B’Nai Jacob congregation that built the building and worshiped there until 1957, and the Holiness/Pentecostal First Church of God in Christ congregation that has worshiped in the building since purchasing it in 1957. The conference is accompanied by a photo exhibition. The Department of Art History is proud to be a co-sponsor of this important event.

Mary (“Mare”) Lodu attended the University of Minnesota from 2014 to 2016. She was initially a studio art major at a different university, but decided to transfer into art history at the U after taking the art history courses that her previous school’s program required. While at the U, her research focused on Women Students and Artists for Black Arts Liberation (WSABAL), an arts activism group founded by prominent Black feminist Faith Ringgold and her daughter Michele Wallace. Upon graduating, Lodu worked for the arts publication Third Rail, where she was given the opportunity to interview Wallace about WSABAL. Within the last five years, Lodu has worked in archives and digitization projects at the University of Minnesota Special Collections, Hennepin County Library, and the Minnesota Historical Society. In these positions, she has worked on Umbra Search African American History and documented photographic archives from the City of Minneapolis. She is currently in her first year of obtaining a Master’s of Arts in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool, where she focuses on archives. Lodu also is a member of the Burn Something Collective, an organization made for and by Black and POCI femme, non-binary, and trans artists, meant for curation, publishing, and mentorship. 

Share on: