Stained glass art commemorates 50th anniversary of CUBE
In the window of the President’s Office now hangs a colorful work of stained glass art depicting a kente cloth, a traditional interwoven cloth native to the Akan ethnic group of Ghana.
In the office of the new Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion hangs another piece of stained glass art, this one depicting a black fist raised in the air — a gesture that represents solidarity and support.
Both pieces commemorate the 50th anniversary of the St. Olaf College Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE).
Bringing these pieces to campus was a team effort by African American alumni. The artist, Theodore C. Feaster ’77, created and donated the piece depicting the fist; Aldra Allison ’77 commissioned the second piece depicting the kente cloth that Feaster created, and Barbara Spears ’76 drove the art from Feaster’s workspace in Chicago to St. Olaf.
“It’s to say we were here,” says Allison, a retired affordable home program manager who was highly involved in CUBE during her time at St. Olaf and is one of the newest members of the St. Olaf Alumni Board.
It’s to say we were here.Aldra Allison ’77
Feaster is an accomplished stained glass artist of contemporary African American art based in Chicago. He creates his own designs and patterns with various colors and textured glass. Already familiar with Feaster’s work, Allison reached out to him to create pieces for St. Olaf that she hopes will inspire current students.
“The piece donated by Theodore represents the times of the ’60s and ’70s. It is symbolic of 1968 and is a reminder of where were and where we still need to go,” Allison says. “The panels represent a variety of people of all shades coming together to learn. Each square is unique but radiant with the light, just like people.”
Founded in 1968 by African American students, CUBE is an organization that discusses and analyzes the depth of the African American experience. While issues appertaining to African Americans are the primary focus, CUBE also works to relate these experiences to other underrepresented groups.
We’re grateful for the pieces and the recognition from alumni.CUBE Co-Chair Joshua Wyatt ’21
“We’re grateful for the pieces and the recognition from alumni,” says current CUBE co-chair Joshua Wyatt ’21. “We love seeing black alumni reaching out to students and getting involved.”
Allison studied political science while at St. Olaf. Along with her involvement in CUBE, she was the Black Action Committee president her senior year, was active with the Political Awareness Committee, and was a member of the women’s basketball team all four years.
“In the early ’70s, black students at St. Olaf were at the crossroads of change in America,” Allison says. She volunteered to be on the CUBE committee to help give a voice to her classmates.
She says she found St. Olaf to be a supportive community. One summer, for example, Allison had nowhere to stay. “An instructor let me house-sit his house for the entire summer. You won’t get that amount of care or sense of community at any other school,” Allison says.
During her junior year, Allison’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer. “I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t see him,” Allison says. “My friends and professors pulled together money to buy me a plane ticket to visit my father. That was the most impactful experience I had at St. Olaf College, and that’s what inspired me to give back.”
After graduation, Allison spent her entire career in the service of others.
“St. Olaf planted the seed of who I am,” Allison says. “I wanted to give back to the best of my ability.”