Mary Kay Welle





Meet Mary Kay Welle, member, Friends Board of Directors

Smaller M M Welle

Mary Kay Welle has always had a dual fondness for the arts and sciences. She was drawn to the arts in her early college years, especially studio ceramics and fiber arts. Later in life, she obtained a second degree in nursing to follow her love of science. Shortly after marrying in their 20s, she and her husband John took off for Europe and lived in Italy for three glorious years. During that period and with additional travel, this small-town Minnesota girl saw some of the most beautiful art, architecture, and design in the world while living in Verona, Florence, Rome, and Brindisi, Italy, and exploring Greece and Turkey.

Mary Kay and John started their art collection with pieces they found both locally and during travel. Mary Kay cites Chagall as her favorite artist due to his use of bold colors, fantasy, allegory, and whimsy; in their collection, she and John have a lithograph by one of Chagall’s students. They also collect modern Northwest Coast Native art. Both Mary Kay and John are retired professors, she from a career teaching nursing at Saint Mary’s College, and John from one teaching modern Italian literature and film at the University of Notre Dame.  They have two adult children, a daughter and son, and two granddaughters, all of who live on the West coast.

With her love of contemporary arts, one would think Mary Kay would not be a devotee of the ancient art of quilting. However, this hobby perfectly melds the left and right sides of the brain. Quilting is an exacting skill requiring precise measurements, cuts, and stitching for each geometric shape. Yet, creativity in color choice and design is undoubtedly involved. In the beginning, Mary Kay’s perfectionist bent made quilting quite frustrating, as she had unraveled many lines of stitches when they were less than flawless. Now, she’s a lot more forgiving and relishes the Zen-like qualities of the process. Quilting, she says, is the perfect hobby for someone who loves art and design.

Resized Romance Makers 1962 020

Every summer, Mary Kay returns to her Minnesota roots, where she spends family time fishing for walleye and northern pike and kayaking on a peaceful lake. There, she can take the time to savor wide-open spaces and commune with nature. Perhaps that’s why her favorite piece at the Snite Museum is The Romance Makers by Charles Marion Russell. That work, she says, causes her to wonder, “Who are these men on the ridge in this vast, beautiful landscape. How are they connected to the land, and what are their intentions?

Equipped with her scientist’s inquisitiveness and her artist’s aesthetic, Mary Kay has been a valued contributor to the Snite Museum of Art’s Friends Board for the past five years.

Susie Farrington, Friends Board of Directors

April 2022

(Above) Charles Marion Russell, (American, 1864–1926), The Romance Makers, 1918, Oil on canvas, 31 x 43 inches. Gift of C. R. Smith 1962.020