Thursday, December 17, 2015

Minneapolis Institute of Art: A Centennial Year

Frank Stella’s Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation II
The Minneapolis Institute of Art enriches the community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible outstanding works of art from the world’s diverse cultures.

Imagine if you were turning 100 years old and could invite everyone you knew to celebrate with you for an entire year. In 2015 Mia, Minneapolis’ art museum, made sure Twin Cities’ residents and visitors were treated to a grand, year-long celebration of art in honor of its 100th anniversary.   

100 years ago, the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts opened its doors in 1915 in the neoclassical McKim, Mead and White designed building. Long known as the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the museum recently rebranded itself as Mia in preparation for its centennial and the opportunity it presented to move forward dramatically.

Gifts of amazing art, community celebrations and 52 surprises appeared weekly at the museum, in the community, around the state, and on the Mia website. The gifts and experiences were exceptional in range as well as abundant, appearing in unexpected ways, places, and in everyday moments. There was even an unannounced exhibit of 80 pieces of American art on long-term loan.

The centennial year opened and closed with particularly imposing gifts. The Habsburgs: Rarely Seen Masterpieces from Europe’s Greatest Dynasty organized by Mia and its partners ran from January to May. Delacroix’s Influence:The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to van Gogh opened in October and featured Delacroix’s self-portrait painted on the steps of the museum’s façade.

Three mystery masterpieces punctuated the year: Vermeer’s Women in Blue Reading a Letter Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks; and van Gogh’s Irises.

Recognizing Minnesota’s 4 very different seasons, several gifts were presented with a seasonal twist. Gift #9, an ice sculpture of a dragon seemed to emerge from the shores of an area lake until the welcome warm weather got the better of it. Gift # 32 was crop art commissioned by Mia of Van Gogh’s Olive Trees.

A playful reach throughout the greater Twin Cities’ metropolitan brought art-adorned water towers to 3 cities. From Memorial Day weekend through September, commuters and vacationers could enjoy Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees in Chisago City, Katsushika Hokusai’s Under the Wave of Kanagawa in New Hope, and Frank Stella’s Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation II in Minnetonka.

Mia also presented gifts that focused on engaging visitors and community members more deeply with art and with the life of Mia. Once at Mia, a year-long series of stories from its past, feature archival images. Of Us and Art, Gift #5, celebrated the centennial by inviting creation of 100 videos of the museum, its collection, and museum experiences; the collection includes a video of the van Gogh-inspired crop art. Share your Mia invited visitors and community members to share a story about a memorable moment, exhibit, photo, joy, discovery, or object and post it on the Mia website. Gift #49 is all about New Ways to Engage in the Galleries. Find out about all 52 surprises here.

Mia’s celebration has amply demonstrated that a museum doesn’t have to minimize its mission to throw a really enormous party. Thoughtfully selected, its gifts have been a fairly direct expression of its mission: enrich the community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible outstanding works of art from the world’s diverse cultures.

Consideration of making art accessible is apparent in placing art in public spaces and in surrounding communities. Mia’s free admission has allowed anyone to stop by–and on multiple occasions–to view masterpieces by Vermeer, Raphael, and van Gogh. Touch Tours (Gift #40) were offered during Art Beyond Sight Month in October. From a major new gift of 700 objects to Mia’s Japan collection and the dragon ice sculpture representing its world-renowned Asian art collection, Mia has incorporated art from the world’s cultures into its celebration.

Any gift, especially a significant one, says something about the giver. Fifty-two gifts and a year of celebration say a great deal about the organization Mia is, has been, and wants to become. It attests to Mia’s diligence in laying groundwork, from cultivating funders and sponsors; to building internal capacity; to supporting staff, volunteers, and docents; to creating newsworthy events.

Founded by 25 citizens committed to bringing the arts into the life of their community, Mia's roots are in civic engagement. A century later, this shows in how it values its visitors and communities and how it works collaboratively with artists and community partners. What can only be characterized as extensive networks with other museums nationally and internationally, collectors, arts organizations, and community members have made possible loans of masterpieces, musical performances, and 100 videos. When gifts take the form of books, bikes, t-shirts, art shanties, and crop art, and they focus on Leonardo da Vinci and Ferran Adriá, it’s clear individual and collective imaginations and creativity have been hard at work.

As a neighbor, a member, and a museum professional, thank you, Mia, for celebrating your 100th anniversary with us.

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