by Cori Hilsgen
Shoppers will have a chance to check out new gift ideas at the recently “re-imagined” Whitby Gift Shop which opens Feb. 16.
Although the gift shop has usually closed for inventory during January, it was closed a few more weeks this year to get ready for the “Reimagining of the Art and Heritage Place.”
Sister Jean Juenemann is the new manager of the gift shop and welcomes people to check out the many displays of items available for purchase. For the past five years, Juenemann has assisted Sister Ione Tesh who was the previous manager for 15 years. Tesh recently accepted a new position.
Juenemann currently does not have an assistant working with her.
In the past, the gift shop had artist shows for eight to 10 weeks in the gallery which occupies about one-third of the gift-shop space.
With the reimagining look, the gift shop now featuresmostly items done by the 15-18 sisters who create art. The gallery will feature artwork done by sisters and will later become a permanent photo history of St. Benedict’s Monastery.
Juenemann said the gift shop will carry products not normally found in downtown gift shops. Some things the gift shop will carry include jewelry, needlework, knitting, tatting, quilling, paintings, photography, hand-embroidered dish towels, baby items and children’s knitted sweaters, a variety of greeting cards, Swedish roll and cracked-wheat bread mixes to create Bennie Bread. Also included are religious articles such as crosses, medals and rosaries for baptisms, Holy Communion, confirmation and other religious occasions.
There is a book nook with books written by sisters and pottery made by Sister Dennis Frandrup, a retired art instructor from the College of St. Benedict.
Several longtime local artists’ work including towels by St. Joseph resident Rose Ann Pflueger, scarves made by Avon resident Juliann Rule and greeting cards by St. Cloud resident and former CSB art instructor Sandy Botmiller are still available at the gift shop.
The gift shop also sells wild-rice products from American Indians of whom the sisters served for many years. Also available at the shop are various articles from developing countries, such as hand bags made by women from the Republic of South Sudan who currently live in St. Cloud.
About 12 sisters make greeting cards which are the best-selling items at the gift shop.
The Reimagining the Art and Heritage Place began in fall of 2016 with artists and interested people from the area and the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict. This process continued until fall of 2017. Many of the women involved in the process had been involved as part of an advisory group.
Sister Gen Maiers, coordinator of the Art and Heritage Place, said they decided to bring a group of key people together to look ahead to the future in 2016. After 20 years, it seemed appropriate to look at the needs of the area as well as what fits with their mission. The prioress named a team of sisters to carry out and develop the project. The group concluded the sisters have an important tradition and legacy to share with the public, even though the number of sisters available to work in both the gift shop and museum has decreased.
Maiers said their goal is to live up to both the mission and vision statements established for the Art and Heritage Place in 2000.
The mission statement is “In the Benedictine tradition, we respond to the hungers of the human spirit by fostering, preserving and sharing the art and spirituality of our monastic culture.”
The vision statement is “The Art and Heritage Place is recognized as a place for experiencing the richness of our Monastery heritage, art and spirituality. Through exhibits and presentations, the space offers opportunities that are educational and transformational. The Art and Heritage Place provides visitors with an awareness of Benedictine women’s contributions to art, history and spirituality by offering exhibits and programs which display creativity, foster reflection and contribute to building a sense of community.”
The intent of the Art and Heritage Place space was to invite others to learn about and share in the heritage and legacy of the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict, who have been in the area more than 160 years.
The Whitby Gift Shop is part of the Art and Heritage Place. The museum is the larger part of the building. The Art and Heritage Place, gift shop and museum, was built in 2000 as part of the sisters’ outreach ministry.
The gift shop is being emphasized now because the museum will not open until April. Doing all the necessary research and preparing the exhibits for the museum will take much longer and the sisters did not want the gift shop closed during all of that time.
The Whitby Gift Shop will be open noon-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Saturdays. It’s closed Sunday and Monday.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.