Editor's note: The Tweed Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. Peter Spooner forwarded to TFAO images of pages of Saved by Grace with permission of St. Scholastica Monastery. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material for the article, excepting the book, please contact the Tweed Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:

If you have questions or comments regarding Saved by Beauty, or wish to obtain a copy of the book, please contact St. Scholastica Monastery directly through either this address, phone number or website:


Sister Mary Charles: Engagement and Transcendence

 June 3 - September 21, 2014


From June 3 through September 21, 2014 the Tweed Museum of Art held an exhibition featuring the work of Sister Mary Charles McGough (1925-2007). The exhibition was a collaboration between the Tweed Museum of Art and St. Scholastica Monastery in Deluth, MN. The exhibition was guest curated by Peter Spooner.

Born Mary Helen McGough ("Mc-Goo") in 1925 in Cloquet, Minnesota, she was the eldest daughter in a Duluth family strong on Catholic Irish heritage, but poor and struggling. Her creative talents were acknowledged at Cathedral (now Marshall) High School, and she entered St. Scholastica Monastery directly from high school. With the encouragement of her monastery, Sister Mary Charles studied art and education at the exact time the Catholic Church sought to reinvent its public face for the modern world, through a self-assessment known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II (1962-65). The Benedictine Order had always nurtured its artists and artisans, and Vatican II further affirmed the important role of the arts in Catholic ministry.  

Sister Mary Charles received a Master of Education Degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Notre Dame University in 1964. One of her important teachers and mentors was the printmaker Irving Amen (1918-2011), whose influence can clearly be seen in her prints.  The focus of her early artwork was woodcut prints, often depicting young people as they explored play, nature, and art. Her prints were popular and widely collected by Duluthians. 

Sister Mary Charles worked in an amazingly wide variety of media, including fabric banners, graphic design, ceramics, wood carvings, mosaic and stained glass. In 1990 she studied traditional icon painting, and created over eighty-five religious icons in the last two decades of her life.  Her works grace churches in seven states, and many can be seen in churches throughout the Northland.  

The artist taught in the Catholic schools of the Duluth Diocese and from 1956 to 1964 was head of the Art Department at The College of St. Scholastica. Convinced that making art, not college administration, was her true calling, she petitioned superiors to let her establish an art studio in an old carriage house on the McCabe property in Duluth's Hunter's Park neighborhood. They agreed, and "The Barn" was renovated by community volunteers and donated materials. With other Benedictine Sisters she taught a popular summer arts program for children ages 7-13, exposing them to all art media along with experiences in theatre, science, writing, music and dance.  Sister Mary Charles believed that experiences with art opened people up to positive experiences of all kinds. "The Barn" program became a model of progressive, multidisciplinary arts education.  Hundreds of its participants fondly remember their experiences there.


Saved by Beauty

The Monastery holds much of Sister Mary Charles' art and archive and has published a book about her art and life. The book, Saved by Beauty, was released in conjunction with the exhibition opening. According to Peter Spooner, the book was published by the Monastery and not the Tweed; it was intended to accompany the exhibition, but not be a catalogue of it.


Events related to the exhibition              

Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Tweed Museum of Art
Sunday, June 29, 2014, 2:00 pm and Saturday, July 19, 2014, 2:00 pm, Tweed Museum of Art
Sunday, September 21, 2014, 2:00, Saint Scholastica Monastery Chapel, organized by Saint Scholastica Monastery.
UMD University for Seniors Lecture Series: "Sister Mary Charles - One Person's Impact" by exhibition guest curator and Sister Mary Charles book essayist Peter Spooner 
Monday, May 12, 2014, 11:30-12:30 - UMD Kirby Plaza 309.
UMD University for Seniors 4 week Short Course: "Sister Mary Charles: Engagement and Transcendence" Wednesdays, April 23, 30, May 7, 14, 9:30-11:30 - UMD Kirby Plaza 309. Led by Peter Spooner.
This four-week class was for individuals who are 50+ years of age and who participate in the University for Seniors Program. Individuals can view program details and see other lifelong learning courses at www.d.umn.edu/goto/seniors.


Selected pages of Saved by Beauty

Please click on each page number to view an image of the page:

Page 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

Page 51, 52, 53


Resource Library editor's note

On November 14, 2014 Sister Lois Eckes, OSB, of St. Scholastica Monastery in Deluth, MN sent a letter to Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) granting TFAO's online site permission to reproduce pages 9-31 and 51-53 of the book Saved by Beauty.

Selected pages of Saved by Beauty in the form of .pdf images of printer's proof pages were published December 3, 2104 in Resource Library with permission of St. Scholastica Monastery.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Peter F. Spooner for his help concerning publishing the pages.

Readers may also enjoy:

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Tweed Museum of Art in Resource Library.

Links to sources of information outside of our website are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2014 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.