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Building a Museum



A Temple of Art
The drawing on this postcard from about 1915 shows the original plan for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as it would have looked from the corner of Stevens Avenue and 24th Street.
  The drawing on this postcard from about 1915 shows the original plan for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as it would have looked from the corner of Stevens Avenue and 24th Street.

 

Massive marble columns. Gleaming blocks of stone. Walls the length of a city block. A sense of the city’s pride bursts from this postcard of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from about 1915.

Just a few decades earlier, Minneapolis had been barely more than a large town. Thanks to the success of its flour mills and the railroads, it exploded in size. It grew from 47,000 people in 1880 to 129,000 people in 1885. But with the city’s commercial success, people wondered how to avoid the “gross materialism” that could come with such a boom.

Art was the answer, some said. “Industry without art is brutality,” proclaimed a Tribune newspaper editorial in 1882. In 1883, fourteen men and eleven women formed the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, devoted to building an “art culture” in Minneapolis. They dreamed of a “temple for art and music” with galleries, an art school, and an orchestra hall.

At first the Society rented rooms in the public library downtown. They had a single room for exhibitions and owned six works of art. By 1911 the Society’s members had raised enough money to build their own building—though not the whole project pictured on this postcard. Only the center section of this view was ever built.


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1. The Society of Fine Arts got its start in rented rooms in the public library building in downtown Minneapolis.
2. Clinton Morrison promised to give his family’s homestead on Third Avenue and 24th Street to the Society of Fine Arts if they could raise $500,000 for a new building.
3. The Society began construction on the new building in 1913.

 

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May 2006