Library honors Mary Blinn with artwork retrospective


Evan Bell

Former college advisor Robert Blinn said he thinks the Mary Blinn Retrospective will give students, faculty and staff an idea of how versatile his late wife was in the arts. 

By Campus Reporter

A retrospective art exhibition for the late Mary Blinn, former assistant to the chair of the Music Department, opened Oct. 9, showcasing a wide variety of her creative works including art, poetry, music and songwriting.

The exhibit was curated by her husband, Robert Blinn, a former college advisor, and will be on display at the Library, 624 S. Michigan Ave., through Nov. 25. 

Blinn said he found some of the art pieces around his house, many of which were framed, including some works he had never seen before.

Included in the retrospective are photographs from the first roll of film she shot from a Nikon camera her husband purchased for her.

“She learned how to capture motion just by looking at the camera,” Blinn said.

Blinn said his wife, who died on June 25, worked with photography, watercolors, paint, colored pencils, gauze, poetry and film. He said she taught herself how to use the various media in her works.

“I hope the retrospective will show people here at Columbia—students, faculty and staff—how extremely diverse [Mary] was in terms of what she could do artistically,” Blinn said.

According to Blinn, the exhibit showcases his wife’s works from about 40 years ago through roughly 20 years ago.

Blinn said the book the couple wrote together, “Putting Creativity to Work: The Art of Working in the Arts,” was written to inspire students through the story of how they both were able to find success in the arts.

“We wanted to pass inspiration and ideas to students and how to do things and how to avoid discouragement and get things done,” Blinn said. “[Finding success is] not going to be the same for everybody, but [the book] might inspire students to start there and find their own way.”

Stephen DeSantis, director of Academic Initiatives, said Robert Blinn requested his help through the library staff.

DeSantis said he has worked previously with Art in the Library, and it is valuable for the community and the students to celebrate its creativity through staff members like Mary Blinn.

“What is really important, especially at Columbia, is for students to understand many of the faculty and staff members are creative individuals themselves,” DeSantis said.

Jan Chindlund, Library dean and a friend of Robert Blinn, said she attended Mary’s remembrance July 1 and asked him if there was anything the library could do to contribute to Mary’s memory.

“Mary was a graduate of Columbia, and she loved Columbia,” Chindlund said. “She was a very important employee who was instrumental in helping the Music Department succeed.”

Chindlund said Mary Blinn came up with the idea to feature photographs of six music students located in the windows of the music building.

Blinn said his late wife picked the students based on their attitudes because she thought they would come across in the photos.

“We have that type of promotion going on all over campus now,” Chindlund said. “There are large pictures up of students and faculty telling the world who we are. It was a great idea to portray us that way.”

Chindlund said she thinks students will connect with her work on display because her artwork was diverse.

“They’ll see you can have a lifelong passion that may or may not be your vocation,” Chindlund said. “You may have many vocations going simultaneously, which I think is something Mary was successful at.”