On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts

An exhibition of photographs by Xavier Tavera in celebration CLA's 150th Anniversary

View the exhibition at the Nash Gallery Sept 12-Dec 8.
Event info

Learn more about the creation of the exhibition.
Video of artist talk
Behind the scenes video

Across 150 years the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota has been transformed, from the methods of its instruction to the evolution of its disciplines. Alongside those changes, touchstones endure: Vital inquiry. Disciplinary and interdisciplinary excellence. An unwavering dedication to changing lives and communities. 

The photographs in this collection capture the essence of the liberal arts and examine our purpose. We are students and scholars. Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and leaders. We unravel the difficult challenges facing modern societies and educate imaginative minds who create tomorrow’s industry-shaping ideas. We train compassionate graduates who lead healthy dialogues. 

What will CLA produce in its next 150 years? We can’t begin to imagine. But we know that the democratizing vision of our land-grant legacy will remain the core of who we are. And we know that we will continue to shatter expectations of what a liberal arts education means and what it offers to diverse individuals and communities—in Minnesota and around the world.

Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. Click on the photos below to view the images and narratives from the exhibition. Together they form a collective portrait of the liberal arts.
Art History photograph with Marilyn Chiat and Mary Lodu seated on couch
Three students in the observatory dome with telescope
Four faculty standing in front of a photo gallery of previous presidents of the University.
Daniel McFadden standing in front of a chalk board with an equation written on it.
A man leans on First Avenue club wall near the prince star, while a student plays the cello.
A woman is singing opera as a Dr. watches taking notes in a research lab.
In a library conference room a faculty person, student and reporter face the camera.
Four students stand with protest signs relevant to 2018 social causes in front of Morrill Hall
A faculty member holds her daughter while reading in Upson library.
Four faculty gather in front of a black background looking at the viewer.
Two graduate students stand in the newspaper archives in the basement of Wilson library.
A female PhD students stands in front of a chalk board filled with equations on a tall ladder.
Two Alumnae stand in the East Asian library holding personal artifacts.
Three cross country skiers stand in a snowless woods dressed in race bibs
A couple stand behind a seated student in a library.
Two tuba players, drum major and Jean Holten in a band practice room.
A seated female student faces the camera with the city of Minneapolis behind her.
Three instructors sit in the grass at cedar lake with a antique Russian tea set, solar cells, and a antique book.
Three Students seated in front of Pillsbury hall in a sea of words.
The Dean of CLA stands on the Washington avenue bridge.
Three students meet with State Representative in the Minnesota capitol building.
A faculty member speaks in front of a green screen while be filmed, a professional is on a video screen and a graduate student manages the room.
Three interns sit at a downtown creative firm with the Owner.
Five graduate students gather around bikes down by the Mississippi river.
A student stands in the foundry.
Five students stand around a large traditional ocean fishing boat.
A seated graduate student instructs a child and an undergraduate with classical texts displayed on the wall.
The Provost and CLA graduates who are on the Board of Regents
Portrait: Hakim Abderrezak wearing a suit, standing near a window in Folwell Hall
Two women, one older one younger, sitting on chairs in a CATSS lab with microphones and padding on the walls
Four Alumni stand in business attire on the interior steps at Northrup hall.
A faculty member and LATIS representative stand in the drendrochronology lab with tree cores.
Two women stand beside lake Bde Maka Ska
Two students sit in a cafe doing a recorded interview.
Three graduate students gather around a table.
Two women sit with a young graduate student in an apartment.
A student leans against a window that overlooks the Mississippi river.
John Wright, Agnes Schaffauser, Yuichiro Onishi, Abou-Bakar Mamah standing in front of Morrill Hall
Lauren Holly, Jason Tham, Antoni Grgurovic sitting at a desk with writing materials and glowing monitors
Irma O'meara, Tank Davis, Vernon Rowe (seated), Danna Rizo gathered in a library, wearing matching T-shirts
Samhitha Krishnan standing against a colorful wall with her arms crossed
Laura Dawis, Eman Ausman, Hongna Bystrom, Tola Ou-Quinlan, and Rochelle M. Emmel sitting/standing behind a desk with office materials in front of them
Jonathan Veracka, Amanda Grant, and Fatima Walji leaning up against a wall decorated with film posters from ALL's studies
Photo of female undergraduate student standing next to a female advisor in the advisor's office
Photo of Spanish & Portuguese faculty recreating a painting by Velazquez called Las Meninas
Erika Lee in Gallery
Two young women and a young man hold a large photo together. Behind them on the wall are many colorful square pieces of paper.
Photo of Dinghui Liu, Sabrina Keefe, Mohamud Abdi, and Haley Bennett
Photo of Francisco Rosales, Ikal Avila, Ramona A. de Rosales, Reina-Xareni Spears, Jimmy Patiño, and Emilio Aviña
Faculty and students of the Premodern Consortium pose with many objects that reflect their studies
Photo of Noah Barth
A faculty person sits with 3 students from the institute.
Photo of John Mallow, Alyssa Diaz, and Grace Kramer
Dominick Argento seated in a wingback armchair.
A couple stands with a faculty member in the basement of Wilson library surrounded by globes.
Two students and a faculty member face a seated student in a costume.
Kathryn Pearson standing in front of a staircase
Li Wang, and Chun Wang sitting in front of a blackboard, hand in hand
Photo of Xavier Tavera seated on a stool next to some rolling bins and a sign that says Lost and Found
Photo of University of Minnesota mascot Goldy Gopher wearing a sparkly jacket leaning against a bannister in side Northrop auditorium