Art Barn should be more accessible to St. Olaf students

When I asked a group of friends what they thought of the Art Barn, we agreed on two factors. Primarily, we wondered why it is called the “Art Barn.” We realized that the only times we visited the Art Barn were for various club meetings or activities, such as a hockey reception or a Spanish club meeting. Secondly, we agreed that the Art Barn’s location in the Natural Lands provides a sense of isolation from campus. In other words, the Art Barn poses an attractive spot for students wanting to participate in activities off the main campus.

The Flaten Art Barn opened in 2013 and is named after Arnold Flaten — the founder of the Department of Art and Art History at St. Olaf. It is a reconstruction of the 1932 building that served as the College’s first art department.

But, like my friends, I have only been to the Art Barn for club meetings. These meetings include an initiation ceremony for Alpha Phi Omega and a super blood moon viewing event hosted by the Astronomy Club. Besides being utilized for events such as these, it seems the Art Barn just sits there, under lock and key.

Indeed, even to use the Art Barn, students must send in a reservation request to be approved by Kris Vatter, Director of Student Activities and Buntrock Commons. From my understanding, there have been events in the past where students have misused the Art Barn, leading to stricter regulations of it.

Personally, I think it would be great for the Art Barn to be more accessible to students. It would work well as a place for students to relax after spending the day exploring the Natural Lands.

It could even be a great studio art space, particularly for students focusing on drawing or painting nature. I recognize, however, that the location of the Art Barn could promote or facilitate what St. Olaf deems illicit activities.

To combat this anxiety, I feel that the Art Barn could be accessible to students if someone were to work there when it is open. If a student worker was managing the place, I’m sure the Art Barn could be of greater use to the community.

Laras Kettner ’21 ( is from Falls Church, Va. She majors in Nursing.

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