BiographyJohn Norris Maakestad was born December 12, 1928, in Whitehall, WI. In 1930, he moved to Rochester, MN, where his father, a Luther College alumnus of 1921, became the pastor of Zumbro Lutheran Church. In 1944 he began studies at the Rochester Art Center and in 1946 he graduated from Rochester High School. After receiving a BA degree from St. Olaf College with double majors in Art and English in 1950, he married Barbara Shefveland in 1951. They are the parents of four sons, Erik Paul, Jon Per (’79), Thomas Andrew (’80), and Rolf David (’85).
Maakestad began a three-year graduate teaching assistantship at the University of Iowa in 1953 receiving his MFA in 1955 with an emphasis in studio art and art history. There he studied painting, printmaking, drawing and sculpture. In 1956, he joined the St. Olaf College Art Department as an instructor where he coordinated college exhibitions and collections and designed Christmas Festival sets for the next twenty years. While at St. Olaf, he acted as liaison between architects and the art department in the remodeling of East Hall into the art building used for many years and established the Steensland Art Gallery. In 1968, he began his eight-year commitment as Chair of the Art Department. He began teaching art history rather than studio art at St. Olaf in 1972 and organized the art history major which began in 1976. In 1994, he retired from St. Olaf after 37 years of teaching.
While at St. Olaf, Maakestad had several leaves. He traveled to Europe to visit museums and and paint, spent time at Holden Village, an ecumenical retreat center in Chelan, WA, where he also created art and traveled to Alaska, Utah, Nantucket, NY, England, Italy, and Asia during sabbaticals. He also received several grants including a Ford Foundation Grant for work in sculpture, a Lilly Grant for studies in Art and Theology, and a Mellon Grant to study Flemish art in Europe.
Maakestad exhibited widely in shows at St. Olaf College, Carleton College, Mayo Clinic, Luther College and other museums and galleries principally in the upper midwest. A retrospectiive exhibition of his works was held in the Steensland Art Museum at St. Olaf College in 1994, accompanied by a catalog entitled "A Pilgrimage." He received numerous commissions for work including Children’s Hospital and Hope Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and art works for several churches.
Marion Nelson, in his essay in the exhibit catalog Painting by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, noted that Maakestad should be considered a Norwegian-American artist in the sense that his family background was strongly Norwegian-American. His grandfather, born in Sørfjord, Hardanger, Norway, emigrated to the U.S. at a young age.
There are two works by Maakestad in the Fine Arts Collection, an oil pastel on paper entitled "Sandager’s Slough" (1988), and an oil on canvas entitled "Metamorphosis" (1971). "Sandager’s Slough" was painted on site in south Rice County, Minnesota. The work was originally commissioned as a gift for Charlotte Jacobson upon the occasion of her retirement from the Norwegian-American Historical Society and was returned to the artist after her death. "Metamorphosis" was painted while the artist was on sabbatical leave at Holden Village in Washington State. According to the artist, the title responds to the fluid nature of the mountain rock underfoot revealing forces at work creating the earth’s surface.
Source of BiographyExhibit catalog, A Pilgrimage: I’ll Tell you Where I’m Going When I Get There, January 15-February 20, 1994. Northfield, MN: Steensland Art Museum, St. Olaf College, 1993;
Nelson, Marion John. Painting by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970. Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 2000.