In 1879, a lumber baron named Thomas Barlow Walker built an extra room onto his house. He mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the room's walls and opened it to the public. This private collection transformed into a public gallery with the founding of Walker Art Center in 1927. Over the following decades, the center's staff amassed a collection focused on modern art, gathering works from Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and Alberto Giacometti. Today, this permanent collection has expanded to encompass more than 11,000 modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs, more than 800 film pieces, and more than 1,200 artists' books.
In the whimsical multistory geometric helix of the Barnes building, seven cube-shaped galleries radiate from a central core on terrazzo floors and under lofted ceilings. Docents lead group tours through the galleries to see rotating exhibitions or play hide-and-seek with Jackson Pollock. Current exhibits have explored the contemporary still photography of Cindy Sherman, American avant-garde film from 1960 to 1973, and prints, paintings, and sculptures produced after 1989. Inside the museum's social spaces, docents also host artist talks, film screenings, and open houses.
Designed as a contemporary twist on old European opera houses, the center's McGuire Theater draws visitors into its intimate space for live dance, theater, and music performances as well as performance art. Museum exhibits and events also spill outside to a central square and the four quadrants, bordered by granite and evergreen hedges, of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As visitors walk across its lawns, they can glimpse iconic modern sculptures, cross a 375-foot steel-and-wood footbridge, or watch staff teach plants to paint in the Cowles Conservatory.
Originally the home of the Dakota and Ojibwe, Hennepin County began with the hopes and dreams of immigrants, New Englanders, and retired veterans. Why these entrepreneurs, farmers, laborers, craftsman, and vacationers decided to settle in what seemed to be a frigid, uninhabitable land is still a mystery, but their innovations and lineage are traced through the exhibits at Hennepin History Museum. The museum, located inside the historic George Christian mansion, hosts rotating exhibits and permanent collections that paint a picture of Midwestern life in the 19th and 20th centuries. From more recent decades, there are objects from Minneapolis Aquatennials and high-fashion clothes from downtown department stores such as Dayton's and Young-Quinlan. The Pillsbury Doughboy presides over it all, reminding guests of the importance of milling to the region's history.
Photographs, personal papers, and atlases round out the collection, whose contents are further illuminated during the museum’s frequent events. Experts and authors, for instance, deliver talks in the museum’s intimate fireside room, whose fireplace keeps guests warm and prevents them from huddling in the museum's historical bear-skin rugs. In another tucked-away area, researchers and amateur historians pore through the material in the library, which is open to visitors 5 days a week, and in the archives, which is open by appointment. They might find maps of the region from the start of the 20th Century or old pictures of homes in the neighborhood, all steeped in memories and history.
When the Minneapolis Institute of Arts first opened its doors in 1915, it was the product of several decades of arts advocacy. A group of 25 citizens formed the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts in 1883 with the goal of giving their community access to creative arts. More than a century later, this commitment to the community has taken the permanent collections from 800 works to close to 80,000 objects and has made the museum Minnesota's largest art educator.
The collections, divided into seven curatorial areas, encompass a period of 5,000 years and hail from every corner of the world. The Asian Art collection represents 17 different Asian cultures, and Arts of Africa and the Americas holds more than 3,000 pieces of sculpture, basketry, painting, and beadwork. Temporary exhibitions bring collections of artwork from other institutions. The museum's interactive learning stations supplement understanding of topics such as modernism or 17th-century European painting with animation, video, and audio recordings.
Housed inside a Spanish Colonial–style former church, The Museum of Russian Art exudes an aura of hushed reverence—sunlight streams through Romanesque windows, and arches frame the museum’s collection of paintings and sculptures. The lofty setting is ideal for an art collection that spans eons, from unearthed Byzantine-era golden urns to paintings depicting a turbulent post-Stalin Soviet Union.
The Museum of Russian Art bills itself as the only museum on the continent dedicated to preserving Russian art. It continues to do so by collaborating with museums in Russia and the United States, recruiting artifacts, accumulating artwork, and reassembling hopelessly jumbled Matryoshka dolls for its ever-rotating collection. In tandem with the museum’s collection, curators strive to illuminate Russian culture by hosting lectures from scholars of Russian culture and leading free one-hour tours each weekend.
Helmed by 25-year art industry veteran Greg Hennes, Hennes Art Company enriches artwork with expertise and fine framing materials. Protect photo-captured memories of special occasions with a selection from the 8”x10” mouldings ($89) and ready-made frames ($29+), or enshrine a 16”x20” poster or print with custom matting and framing services using Hennes’ in-stock mouldings ($139). Hennes Art Company also features an expansive gallery with hundreds of framed and unframed original works of art, with several idea options for decorating the dining room or bringing a little color to the car hood.
Dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the state?s storied past, the Minnesota Historical Society dutifully curates 26 historic sites and museums that help visitors delve into days of yore?from the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids to the Jeffers Petroglyphs in Comfrey and Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore.
Explore the Minnesota History Center?s collection of artifacts, local artworks, and hands-on exhibits at the History Center in St. Paul, from Civil War battle flags to Prince's suit from Purple Rain. Temporary exhibits include American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, on display through March 16, and Toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s, opening May 24. Mill City Museum in Minneapolis chronicles the linked histories of the flour industry, Minneapolis, and the Mississippi River, sending visitors through history as they traverse each floor on an eight-story elevator ride that depicts a working day at the mill. As a bonus, baking-lab demonstrations produce balmy bread samples and historically accurate stomach rumbles.