Arlyn Gagnon knows that museums have to grow and adapt in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her last two fundraising anniversary celebrations at Mayowood Stone Barn have been canceled, leaving the executive director of the Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden in need of some other plan.
So Gagnon delved into her own inheritance of sculptures to create a new exhibit opening Friday evening.
Each of the pieces is for sale -- and the proceeds will go directly to the museum.
Gagnon chose “lucky 13” pieces, and moved them into the building’s studio. Some, like “Discovery,” are smaller models of life-sized pieces in the Sculpture Garden. Others, like “Releasing the Peace Dove,” are reminiscent of Charles Gagnon’s famous fountains. Still more are small reminders of her husband’s religious works, or the deer that “posed” outside the studio’s large windows.
Charles E. Gagnon, a Rochester-based sculptor born in Minneapolis, is best known locally for the Peace Fountain downtown, as well as several commissioned pieces for the Mayo Clinic, including "Saint Francis and the Birds" in Saint Marys Hospital’s St. Francis Courtyard. He died in 2012, and Gagnon turned their home into the museum in 2018.
When Arlyn Gagnon gives tours of the sculpture museum and garden in southwest Rochester, she relays the history of each model to the listeners. A keen-eyed observer might note that no two peace doves are alike. But how many people know that Charles Gagnon would, any time a figure didn’t fit correctly, throw it to the ground and “give it the name of someone he didn’t like,” as Arlyn tells it?
With all the history Gagnon’s witnessed, of course she gets attached to each sculpture, she said.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to part with them.
“The museum changes and I change with it,” she said. “The great beauty in it is the people who come here.”
To be more precise, it’s in the stories they share and their reactions to her husband’s art.
Like the doctor's wife who gauged her husband's mood by her portrait's position. Or the many other people who've renamed their own figures.
“I know when (the sculptures) leave here and they become part of somebody else’s home, they’ll live there differently,” Gagnon said. “The stories don’t end -- they just grow and multiply.”
She just hopes buyers will come back to tell her about the statues’ new lives.
If You Go
What: Rare exhibition and sculpture sale
When: Nov. 19, through Dec. 18 by appointment. Public reception and lecture 5-7:30 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden, 2500 Fourth St. SW, Rochester
Cost: Free, register for the Friday lecture online at www.gagnonmuseum.org or by phone at 507-282-5202.