Visiting Our Art: Home at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Frank Lloyd Wright at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Grainne through a window in the Frank Lloyd Wright room

What we love to do when we travel–visit museums–we often forget to do here in our former home, Minneapolis (Minnesota). Sure, we were frequent visitors to theaters and art museums and galleries when we lived here, but our short stays these days are mostly consumed by catching up with family, pets, book groups, and doctors.

Fortunately, our traveling lifestyle thrived while we were home this January, inspired by our friend Grainne Coll of Ireland. We met Grainne a year ago in Spain, when we were volunteer English-speakers for VaughanTown (a fabulous way to travel and meet people, by the way). Grainne already knew Minneapolis and St. Paul (and a couple Irish pubs) after visiting her brother who studied here.

With friends and family still scattered around the States, Grainne found herself in Minnesota during this brutally cold January. When we met her for lunch, we realized she was stuck in a distant suburb with no car. So we set another date to show her around town.

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Wild Rice Soup at The Loon Cafe
Wild Rice Soup at The Loon Cafe

We met at a convenient spot on the light rail line (The Loon) where we warmed ourselves with their famous wild rice soup. After a driving tour around the iconic Minneapolis lakes, we decided to stop at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Grainne had never visited and we can never get enough. Our time was short, so we had to select a couple areas (photography and the Frank Lloyd Wright rooms) and only breezed through a couple more. Grainne was impressed, we were delighted to be able to share a piece of our home, and we were reminded why we love the MIA.

A sight for cold eyes, 'Boys Bathing" along the Mississippi River
A sight for cold eyes, ‘Boys Bathing” along the Mississippi River

The Institute is a world class museum and has flourished with world class civic support. Built in 1915, the latest expansion in 2006 (the Target Wing designed by Michael Graves) increased exhibition space by 40%. While the top-notch temporary exhibitions are popular (usually involving an extra ticket charge) we can recommend the permanent collection any day of the week (except Mondays, of course). Highlights include Arts of Africa & the Americas; Contemporary Art; Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture; Asian Art; Paintings; Photography and New Media; and Prints and Drawings.

Saint Benedict of Palermo, attributed to José Montes de Oca (Spain)
Saint Benedict of Palermo, attributed to José Montes de Oca (Spain)

Besides the exceptional photography collection and Prairie School architectural rooms, we love MIA's decorative arts, the Asmat pieces from Papau New Guinea in the Oceanic collection, and the Native American collection. The Africa galleries are about to reopen, and the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) galleries are continually challenging and exciting. Meanwhile, the Institute has made headlines recently for its restoration of Max Beckmann's Blind Man's Bluff,  interest in the contemporary versions of Monuments Men, and the passing of one of its key advocates, Joan Mondale. I'll add to that these links:

MIA's website is remarkable for offering great searchability and information on individual works of art. Here's the story, for example, behind “Boys Bathing” by Alexander Grinager.

And here is a 2004 story from The Rake magazine about former MIA curator Cori Wegener, who rescued art from the war in Iraq.

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5 thoughts on “Visiting Our Art: Home at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts”

    • Thanks for reading, Gary. I’m continually amazed at the scope of the collection. Of the simultaneous arts expansions in Minneapolis (Walker Art Center, Guthrie Theater, and the Institute of Arts) I believe MIA’s has had the most direct benefit to its patrons.

  1. I like the MIA, especially the Asian collections, which is probably their strongest area, thanks to the Daytons. They also have a good collection of contemporary craft, although the amount on display seems to vary a lot. All collections are beautifully displayed and engaging, which sometimes hides the the fact that there really isn’t always much depth :-)

    I alos love the fact that MIA allows photography almost everywhere. It’s a great place to go and practice shooting.

    My favorite museum in the TC metro is probably the Museum of Russian Art, which has a continually revolving dispaly of well-currated exhibits. Even when the main exhibit isn’t of great interest to me, there always seems to be something beautiful, fascinating, and usually totally unfamiliar. Even if you don’t think you like Russian art, check it out next time you’re in town and see if you don’t find something of interest! (The downside is that they don’t allow photography anywhere at anytime.)

    We are lucky to be based in a place with so many great museums and art galleries to fill the time between travels!


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