Minneapolis: A City of Arts and Culture

If you are from Minneapolis, don’t take this the wrong way but I was NOT expecting the vastness of the opportunities for art and culture in your town that I discovered in a recent visit!  As I pored over the options, I settled for visiting a few museums and checking out one show for this short visit knowing full well that there were a lot of options – just too little time (this trip!).

Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA)

In terms of art, I chose the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) not just because it was free but because it is vast in its scope and collection.

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Entrance to the MIA

It was well laid out and quite manageable facing a nice park with the city’s skyline as its backdrop.

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Chinese statue at the MIA with the skyline as its backdrop

It has a large section on China, including reproducing the interior of a home, as well as art collections ranging from medieval Europe to contemporary “art” (some of which could be just from some yard in the mountains of the South; hence the quotation marks….).

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Across the way at the MIA: a sculpture in flight!

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Etruscan style table from France from the 19th century

In any case, one of my favorite pieces was the Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun by van Gogh.  Oh, heck, I liked all the impressionist art – there is just something either appealing, reachable, or understandable about impressionist art for me.  (I was reminded I like Signac but always forget him when I cite favorite impressionist painters…)

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Late 19th century painting by Signac: Snow, Boulevard de Clichy (Paris) – awesome piece

The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA)

Being a lover of Russian history, The Museum of Russian Art intrigued me and I was rewarded not just with art but also with a great exhibit about the Romanovs, thereby satisfying my eternal curiosity of Russian history – a great wealth of artifacts and video clips from the Russian monarchy.

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The Russian Museum of Arts

They also had another exhibit about “Christmas” decorations from the Soviet era.  I did not know about the New Year’s Tree, the Soviet re-invention of the too-religious Christmas tree.  They had sample ornaments made during those times, some quite homemade and others of a little better professional manufacture…

American-Swedish Institute (ASI)

In this trip, I was seeking to learn more the history of the city and I was made aware of the American-Swedish Institute (ASI).  Minnesota has a lot of Swedish blood and one of the Swedish families – the Turnblads- built a mansion in the Golden Mile district of the city in the early 20th century.  The house eventually was donated by the family and now houses the ASI which is much more than a museum – it is also an important cultural center.

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The Turnblad Mansion reflected off the new building housing the Institute – great juxtaposition

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Detail of the architecture of the Turnblad mansion – its huge stained glass window!

The house is open for visits and, during the time of the year when I visited, was decorated for Christmas.  But it was not just decorated for the season but it did so in the styles not only of Swedish traditions, but also in the traditions of the other “Scandinavian” countries:  Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

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Detail of the table setup display from Norway

A nice touch was that they also presented Mexican Christmas traditions given the strong Mexican presence in the area where the Institute is.  I have to say that when I first walked into the Institute (not the house itself) and saw the cafeteria area on the left, I felt I had walked into IKEA!  That soon passed though as, clearly, this was not an IKEA store.

Brave New Workshop

I did not have too much time left to squeeze in show but I had Saturday night open so I opted for the Brave New Workshop comedy theater as my show to see.  This is the place where Al Franken from SNL fame started so I thought I’d check it out.

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Marquee of the Brave New Workshop

The cast was composed of 5 actors who were quite funny on their own merits but some of the pieces written for them were simply brilliant.  The mix of their skills and the pieces exploded when it came to their spoof or “Royals” by Lorde and the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  The theater is cozy and after the function, everyone is welcome to hang around for a full session of improv.  I had had a long day and, sadly, felt that it was time to leave to get a good hot shower and hit the sack.  But if you go, plan to stay on as I can ONLY imagine what this cast got into after I departed!

Art outdoors

Feel the need for fresh air and the outdoors?  Well, in Minneapolis there is art outdoors too!  The Walker Museum’s Sculpture Garden offers some interesting work near the art museum of the same name (which I will visit next time I go!).  Just cross the bridge from Loring Park (perhaps, as I did, before or after stopping at Café Maude for brunch or dinner – I enjoyed the country hash for brunch!), the garden is free and offers not only great art but a phenomenal backdrop with downtown’s skyline and the Basilica of St. Mary.

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The spoon with the cherry at the Walker Garden Park (the Basilica of St. Mary in the background)

Even in random places you may find art…  As I made my way back to my hotel, I passed the U.S. Courthouse area – in its plaza, I found some really curious figures and landscape items.  Though the work on the plaza is not explained via signage, the whole plaza evokes Minnesota’s land and its many types of inhabitants:  wooden benches that are just logs, frogs, snakes, rocks, and many other cute characters.  I can see kids loving this plaza!  The plaza brought a large smile to my face as I headed to check out of my hotel and leave town.

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A rockman on its way to the pile of rocks…

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A fellow tourist like me photographing the plaza

If you head to Minneapolis, or if you want to explore arts and culture beyond the predictable places in the usual suspects (e.g., NYC), I think you should plan to explore these unique Minneapolis offerings (or the others I did not get to explore) – you will not leave disappointed!

The Minneapolis Convention and Visitors’ Bureau helped me plan my weekend based on my interests and kindly obtained visitor’s passes for me to these places.



  1. U na ciudad muy interesante para visitar al igual q sus museos!

  2. Thank you for having lovely things to say about our city!

  3. It is quite remarkable at what finds in the most unexpected places…I loved my time in Wausau, Wisconsin —who knew?
    Charu recently posted..Five Delicious Thanksgiving Cocktail RecipesMy Profile

  4. Minneapolis isn’t somewhere I’ve thought much about, but now I think I would like to visit.

  5. The snow on this site is also outside art very familiar on a winter visit to Minneapolis too. And of all the photos, I love the Turnblad Mansion reflection… nicely captured.

    stay photographing art, Craig
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted..The Sunset Sunday 2014 Calendar – Chasing the SunsetMy Profile

  6. So many interesting places in Minneapolis. The city first caught my eye when Pola visited. I particularly love the art outdoors. That cherry on the spoon is screaming to be in my front yard.
    Leah recently posted..My Trip to the Philippines: Tremors,Tornado & Super TyphoonMy Profile

  7. Minneapolis is a town I have never visited except for driving through. It looks like a cool town though. I will need to stop in sometime on my way to skiing or canoeing up north.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Kuala Lumpur Chinatown in the driving rainMy Profile

  8. I am ashamed to say that I had no idea that Minneapolis had so much to offer! Guess I really should plan a trip to see this all for myself, huh?
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..The Beaufort Hotel, London.My Profile

  9. always love hearing about places i’ve yet to go. looks like you had a great trip 🙂
    lola recently posted..One Day Stay: Los Angeles, CaliforniaMy Profile

  10. I was in Minneapolis for under 48 hours for work, so I didn’t get to sightsee. But just going from the hotel to dinner one night by taxi showed me that Minneapolis is a city I would love to explore. These are some great places you covered that I would want to include in my itinerary.
    Katherine Belarmino recently posted..Hiking the Great Wall of China from Gubeikou to Jinshanling with Great Wall Adventure ClubMy Profile

  11. I do plan on visiting Minneapolis. My wife has close family who moved there recently, so we will be there possibly this year. This art information will be especially important for my wife.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Friday Travel Inspiration: Climbing the High Road to TaosMy Profile

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