Inside An Explorer's Mind: Survival, Innovation, Design—A Will Steger Exhibition | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Inside An Explorer's Mind: Survival, Innovation, Design—A Will Steger Exhibition

Concourse Gallery
Gallery Exhibition
Will Steger portrait, photo by John Ratzloff
John Ratzloff

City Pages Features Will Steger
City Pages Features MCAD Exhibition
Southwest Journal Features Steger and MCAD Exhibition

Exhibition sponsored by:


MCAD is pleased to present a unique exhibition featuring the sustainable design work of world-renowned polar explorer Will Steger. The first person to reach both Poles by dogsled, Steger is known by many titles—educator, photographer, and explorer. He has spent more than fifty years traveling through the Arctic and Antarctic regions, advocating for the Earth’s preservation and advising on permanent solutions to climate change.

This exhibition focuses on a lesser-known aspect of Steger’s vision: design and innovation. Over many decades, Steger has designed or adapted clothing, equipment, and technology to withstand difficult Arctic conditions. While on one of his expeditions, he sketched plans for a unique building and center that will offer people a transformative experience—the Steger Wilderness Center for Innovation and Leadership near Ely, Minnesota. Photographs, videos, drawings, clothing, woodwork, and other unusual items all based on Steger’s unique vision for and knowledge of the earth’s environment will be featured in this exhibition.

An auxiliary exhibition will feature MCAD undergraduate and graduate student projects that have developed out of the college’s Bachelor of Science course “Aesthetics of Sustainability” and the Master of Arts in Sustainable Design degree program. These course and program offerings allow students the opportunity to gain in-depth and actionable knowledge and experience—putting sustainable design theory into practice by developing fundamental problem-solving skills, collaborative innovation techniques and processes, and creative leadership experience.


Will Steger, an influential voice calling for preservation of the Arctic and the Earth, is best known for his legendary polar explorations. For more than fifty years, he has traveled tens of thousands of miles by kayak and dogsled, leading some of the most significant polar expeditions in history, including the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986, the 1,600-mile south-north traverse of Greenland (the longest unsupported dogsled expedition in history) in 1988, and the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica (the historic seven month, 3,741-mile International Trans-Antarctica Expedition) in 1989–90.

Concerned with the rapid impacts of climate change over the last fifteen years, Steger established the Will Steger Foundation in 2006 to translate his concern for the issue into education and public policy and engage people in finding solutions to climate change. The Will Steger Foundation is part of his long-term legacy for addressing this critical issue.

The Steger Wilderness Center for Innovation and Leadership is the next and final phase of his larger mission to keep the planet sustainable for future generations. Located in Minnesota’s north woods, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the Steger Wilderness Center for Innovation and Leadership will host leaders across disciplines. With an emphasis on the transformative power of the wilderness, the Center will create the conditions that ignite break-through ideas and solutions to today’s pressing problems.

“I harbored a vision for most of my adult life to build a Center in the wilderness in order to draw small groups of key decision makers. On my expeditions I had experienced the power of the wilderness setting on group dynamics. I felt that I could make the biggest impact with my life if I could harness this same spirit and energy and direct it towards the betterment of society and the preservation of our environment. It was during the Trans-Antarctic Expedition that I conceived the designs for the Steger Wilderness Center.”    —Will Steger

All photographs in the exhibition courtesy of John Ratzloff.