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 Orville Magnus Running  (1910 - )

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Lived/Active: Iowa/South Dakota      Known for: colorful woodcuts, religion, portrait,

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Ad Code: 4
Orville Magnus Running
An example of work by Orville Magnus Running
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Fine Arts Collection, Luther College:
Orville Magnus Running was born September 19, 1910 in Veblen, South Dakota to the Rev. Alfred Running and Sophia Olsen Running. His father was a Lutheran pastor and his mother a teacher and musician. While his parents were born in America, the family had ties to the Trondheim and Nordfjord areas in Norway. After living in Montana and Idaho, the family moved to Zumbrota, Minnesota in 1925 where he graduated from high school before earning a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN) in 1931. He graduated from Luther Theological Seminary in 1934 and was ordained in July of that year.

Running served as pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington, and Christ Lutheran Church in Chicago, where he renewed his interest in art by attending night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1946 he signed a contract with Luther College to "instruct in art and religious education," and for the next 30 years worked as head of the art department to build a viable art program at the college. The faculty senate voted to institute an art major at Luther in 1957. As part of his efforts to develop the art major, he expanded the faculty and equipment for the Art Department. Along with Dean Schwarz, former Art Department faculty member, he handcrafted 42 potter’s wheels using a design by master potter Marguerite Wildenhain. He also helped build easels for painting and tables for drawing. He oversaw construction of a kilnhouse and designed a press that allowed the College to offer classes in printmaking.

In 1950 he earned an M.F.A. degree from the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa, Iowa City) where he studied under James Lechay, Stuart Edie, and Mauricio Lasansky, among others. He returned to the Chicago Art Institute during the summer of 1956 to work with Briggs Dyer, and attended the Art Students League of New York during 1956-57 where he received instruction from Robert Beverly Hale, Louis Bouché, and Harry Sternberg. He also studied printmaking with Malcolm Myers at the University of Minnesota during the summer of 1957. On a semester-long sabbatical in 1972. he studied under portrait painter Jerry Farnsworth in Sarasota, FL.

Along with teaching and leading the Art Department at Luther College, he managed the Fine Arts Festivals, an annual festival for the arts at the College, which extended from 1957-1966. These festivals yielded 81 works of art which were added to the Fine Arts Collection. As an ordained Lutheran minister, he also taught courses in the Religion Department, delivered chapel talks, and preached in area churches. In 1976 he retired from full-time teaching, but for the next 10 years taught printmaking part-time at Luther College, where he continues to serve as professor emeritus of art and college artist. In 1987 Running was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from St. Olaf College. He was married to Marjorie Olney Running in 1934 for whom the Running Gallery was named, located in Loyalty Hall. They were the parents of four children (Marit, 1958; George, 1959; Marjorie, 1966; and, Kristi). Marjorie is a faculty member at Luther in French and Music. His second wife, Mildred, died in 1999. Running’s brother, Cyrus Running, the long-time chair of the Art Department at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, also has several works in the Fine Arts Collection.

Known primarily for his colorful and highly popular woodcuts, Running is also an accomplished painter and draftsman who has created liturgical commissions in wood and metal, fine calligraphy, and musical/theater backdrops. His work has been shown in many college and university exhibits throughout the Midwest and was included in a traveling exhibition of relief prints organized by the Iowa Arts Council in 1970. For several years his prints hung in the reception room of the American Embassy in Oslo, Norway. Generations of students and colleagues have collected his work, distributing it nationally to private collections and to numerous foreign countries. He designed the interiors and liturgical furniture for six churches including Rock Creek Lutheran in Nora Springs, IA, and Trinity Lutheran in Spring Grove, MN.

Numerus art works by Running have been reproduced for College Christmas cards and other publications. He designed the meditation chapel in Brandt Hall (now a study room), altars for the Center for Faith and Life, Preus Gymnasium and Valders, and the artwork that is on the planetarium wall in Valders Hall of Science. He also designed the College’s centennial seal and the book jackets for the college histories, Luther College 1861-1961, by David T. Nelson and Stability and Change: Luther College in its Second Century, by Leigh Jordahl and Harris Kaasa. For 14 years, he supervised the design and construction of the background sets for the annual Messiah concerts (1946-1955; 1957-1960).

There are over 45 works by Orville Running in the Luther College Fine Arts Collection, including several oil and watercolor paintings and numerous woodcuts. Many of the works were acquired by the generous donation of the artist or other benefactors while others were commissioned by the College during Running's long tenure at the school.

Ref: Friedl-Putnam, Sara. “The Talented Mr. Running.” Luther Alumni Magazine. Vol. 34 (Winter 2001), 47-51.

Written and submitted by Jane Kemp
Professor; Circulation-Special Collections Librarian
Supervisor, Fine Arts Collection (
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101

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