Chatfield artist Karl Unnaschhas work on display in a prominent place in one of America’s largest cities.
His installation titled "OPERANT (An Oldowonk Cataract)" is being shown at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston. Unnasch described his contribution to the "The Auto Show," a transportation-themed exhibition, as "a three-dimensional stained-glass-accoutered artwork based on a red dump truck that acknowledges and celebrates the construction workers and laborers who help build our beautiful cities, bridges and park systems."
Unnasch said he is "honored" to have his art exhibited in this show, and said he had to "pinch myself" upon receiving the invitation.
Raised on a dairy farm in Southeast Minnesota, Unnasch earned an undergraduate degree from Winona State University. He then ventured east for his master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
But he had to return to Minnesota. "It’s so beautiful," he said. Unnasch now lives and works five miles from the family farm where he was raised.
Unnasch’s art combines stained glass and sculpture. Farm life and its "grand palette" can be see in his creations. Many pieces are backlit by light boxes; he jokes that he knows "just enough about electricity to not get hurt."
With both temporary and permanent installations around the globe, Unnasch’s art affords him worldwide travel. At the end of this summer, he will travel to Anchorage, Alaska, to install stained glass art at an elementary school. The collaborative piece came about during workshops he led with school’s students. The children shared favorite local flora and fauna and wildlife, and Unnasch brought it to life in stained glass.
"The students were enthusiastic about what they did and did not want" in the final piece, he said.
"We all know how to communicate," Unnasch said. He does so with his art.
‘Face it and you will make it’
Last month at the Rochester STEM Academy graduation, the commencement speaker, Dr. Rahma Warsame, shared a Somali proverb with the graduating seniors:
"Don’t be scared, don’t be shaken
Keep going on your path
Face it and you will make it."
Warsame grew up with that proverb as a reminder of how to approach life. The challenges she encountered shaped her. When her path twisted, she still persevered. A hematologist at Mayo Clinic, Warsame was "honored" when she received the invitation to speak at the STEM commencement.
According to Warsame, 98% of the students at STEM Academy are Somalian, and Minnesota has the largest Somalian population outside of Somalia. Warsame herself was 5 years old when her family emigrated as refugees from Somalia to Canada.
She prepared for her speech by meeting in advance with the entire graduating class. Warsame gained much insight, not only into the school setting but also the students’ own experiences.
In describing her own school years, Warsame said, "I was always the ‘only.’" Unlike her, STEM Academy students are receiving an education in which they do not stand out as the "only one." From an all-hijabi fencing team to published poetry slam books, STEM students are making a mark. Additionally, nine of the 30 graduates also received associate degrees from RCTC through the PSEO program as they were given their high school diplomas.
In her address, Warsame shared stories of the obstacles on her path. From failed calculus exams to rejection from a first-choice medical school, she reminded students to persevere. Of the experience speaking to them, she said, "I got more out of it than they did," and she gave all of the graduates her email address, encouraging them to reach out to her at any time.
To top it off, the graduation ceremony fell on Warsame’s fifth wedding anniversary. She and her husband celebrated their day at the ceremony.