St.Paul’s sole art museum makes long-awaited return


Carson Hughes, A&E Editor


Visitors were greeted to a former alleyway transformed into a gallery with sleek, white walls, large windows and a century’s worth of art last Sunday at the grand reopening of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, “the M” for short. The reopening was a preview to the conclusion of $12.5 million renovation that expanded 16,000 square feet for museum space which will be followed by a $10.5 million renovation scheduled to be completed by 2020. Despite the promising future of the museum, the road has not been easy for the M.

Originally founded as the St. Paul School of Fine Arts in 1894, the school began functioning as a museum in 1927. The museum has had many names and locations over the years, receiving its current name in 1992, but faced near bankruptcy in 2009. It lost its gallery space and staff, and its works were housed in storage indefinitely.

The museum’s continuation is largely due to the efforts of the M’s executive director Kristin Makholm. With no space for the M to call its own, Makholm spent three years organizing art shows around the state to showcase select pieces of the M’s catalogue. In 2012, the M finally found permanent gallery space at the Pioneer-Endicott Building, but it wasn’t until this month that the institution returned to its museum status.

To celebrate its grand reopening, the M featured works collected over the course of a century as part of its “100 Years and Counting” exhibit. Some of the featured selections include Ojibwe artist Patrick DesJarlait’s watercolor “Red Lake Fishermen” and Paul Manship’s sculpture “Actaeon.”

The M featured other exhibitions as well. A new installation, “Softly … Before the Supreme Court” by Sheila Pepe, is an improvised, crocheted web that hangs from just about every surface of the M’s sculpture court. A window gallery by Duluth multimedia artist features panels with LED lights that channel videos of ocean waves captured all around the world by live feeds from surfline.com.

Alongside exhibitions at the M are creative art classes that guests can take part in. The Center for Creativity is currently home to 1,000 clay pots created by artists Carrie Thompson and Aki Shibata. Guests are encouraged to simply walk in and begin decorating a pot which will be put on display and then given to the person who decorated it. There are also classes being hosted by Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, the first in what will be a rotation of artists teaching at the M.

The Minnesota Museum of American Art is open 12-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the Pioneer-Endicott Building at 4th and Roberts in St. Paul. Starting in January, the Minnesota -Museum of American Art will be open 4–9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

This article was originally published in the Dec. 07, 2018 issue. 

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