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Piece from St. Olaf fine arts journal wins national award

A piece by Anders Nienstaedt ’12 that was originally published in St. Olaf’s literary and fine arts journal, The Quarry, has earned a national award.

A nonfiction piece by Anders Nienstaedt ’12 that was first published in St. Olaf College’s literary and fine arts journal has received the Bennington Prize for Nonfiction.

The story, “Jump,” headlines the April 2014 issue of plain china, an online anthology of undergraduate literature and visual art. Nienstaedt wrote the piece while a student at St. Olaf, and it debuted in The Quarry.

Adjudicator Jack Beatty, the senior editor at The Atlantic, says the work is “beyond praise,” noting that “it is so accomplished … it rises above its facts through its art.”

Nienstaedt, who majored in English and studio art at St. Olaf, was a three-year editor of The Quarry and a fifth-year art apprentice. He wrote “Jump” during his senior year in Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Diane LeBlanc’s Advanced Nonfiction class and submitted it to The Quarry during his apprentice year.

Anders Nienstaedt '12, shown here delivering a poetry reading, wrote "Jump" during a St. Olaf English class.
Anders Nienstaedt ’12, shown here delivering a poetry reading, wrote “Jump” during a St. Olaf English class.

During his fifth year on campus, Nienstaedt stayed focused on writing in conjunction with art, printing a book of essays and illustrations.

“Jump” focuses on Nienstaedt’s personal experiences with cross-country running, the death of his first dog, and the way the deaths of a group of local teenagers affected the small-town community he grew up in in northern Michigan.

“It’s a really coincidental story — it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t come back for an extra year as an art apprentice,” Nienstaedt says. “The Quarry published it and [editor Ben Olsen ’13] sent a copy of the book to plain china. I think sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write a story, and let the story grow from there.”

The art apprenticeship program is a fifth year of independent studio experience for studio art students upon graduation from St. Olaf. The objective of the apprenticeship program is to offer graduates of St. Olaf an intensive studio experience in their area of expertise to better prepare them for graduate school or a professional career in the arts.