The M Blog

The M Blog is an online space for us and for you — artists, museum staff and curators, guest writers, and community contributors — to discuss issues and ideas related to the many experiences of being American today.

Marking a Milestone Moment

On Tuesday morning, January 30, Minnesota Museum of American Art (the M) celebrated the start of construction on its expanded museum facility with a public groundbreaking ceremony. City of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, former Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Chris Coleman, State Rep. Alice Hausman, and the M’s Executive Director, Kristin Makholm, offered their benedictions in the “raw” space slated for renovations in the Historic Pioneer Endicott. A crowd of well-wishers, civic leaders, community partners, and neighboring businesspeople turned out to show their support for the museum and for the vital role creative workers and cultural organizations, like the M, have to play in the city’s vitality, appeal, and economic well-being.

Museum director Kristin Makholm gave an overview of what’s to come for the “next and permanent home of this time-honored St. Paul institution:” new and expanded galleries in which to showcase the M’s exhibitions and permanent collection of 4,500+ works of American art; the Sifo Center for Creativity, a making and learning wing devoted to arts education for all ages; a sculpture court, common gathering spaces, and a glassed-in extension of the skyway directly into the museum. Visitors will find approximately 20,000 square feet of public space when the first phase of construction is complete and the M reopens in late 2018. By 2019, upon completion of the second phase of construction, the museum will expand further to 36,000 square feet — “a six-fold expansion of our space,” says Makholm.

In his remarks, Mayor Carter calls the opening of the M “an incredible opportunity for our city.” He goes on: “Ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings like this are a sign that we, as a city, have the wind in our sails. We have momentum.” He says, “And who better to lead the way than our community’s artists? If you think about the civil rights era, women’s rights, labor rights — all of those moments that have been transformational in moving our country forward — art has been at the forefront of it.”

“What better way to celebrate our drive into the next chapter of St. Paul than to open a phenomenal art museum in a building designed by Cass Gilbert?” —St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter

Chris Coleman, whose mayoral administration was a key partner in bringing development of the new M to fruition, was equally enthusiastic. “To finally have a home for this incredible collection, in this area of the city in particular, which was in desperate need of an infusion of energy, is absolutely fantastic.”

State Rep. Alice Hausman notes, “This museum, which has not had a permanent home – it’s moved over and over again in its 100 years – now has a home that will be one of the most beautiful in this country, and has already been recognized nationally for the work it’s done. That doesn’t happen without leadership”—within the museum and in government, at both the city and state levels. And it’s worthy of such support, she says, because “arts and culture are part of what keeps the state economically healthy and competitive. The mayors understand that; city council understands that, and state leaders need to understand that as well.” She concludes, saying, “We’re not quite finished. We have one more piece we have to make sure to secure. So, we’ll continue to pay attention, and to be partners” with state and local leaders, working together to support vital infrastructural projects, including arts and cultural developments like the M, going forward.

At the helm of this development project are Sterns & Associates, project development consultant; AIA Award-winning architectural firm VJAA, which is responsible for its design; and Greiner Construction, which will lead the building process. Funding for construction of the museum’s first phase of construction in the Pioneer Endicott comes from an outpouring of community generosity: a mix of philanthropic donations, New Markets Tax Credit allocation and funding from Sunrise Banks, New Markets and Historic Tax Credit investment by USBancorp, Cultural STAR Program funds, tax increment financing (TIF) assistance from the City of St. Paul, and financing from Dougherty & Company.

In the press:

Architectural Digest names the new M among its “15 Most Noteworthy Museums Opening This Year.”

Apollo magazine: “Minnesota Museum of American Art Commences Major Expansion Project”

MinnPost: “The M Starts Construction in the Pioneer Endicott”

Pioneer Press: “Minnesota Museum of American Art Celebrates Start of Major Expansion in St. Paul”

Watch a livestream of the groundbreaking ceremony, including all the speakers’ remarks, on the M’s Facebook page.

See photos from the event on Flickr.

Image (top) L to R: Former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, M Executive Director Kristin Makholm, State Rep. Alice Hausman, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, and M trustee and Board Chair Jim Rustad. Photos by Jayme Halbritter.