Collection Insights: Day of the Dead

According to poet Octavio Paz in his essay, The Labyrinth of Solitude, “the Mexican is intimately familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it.” Paz believed that a civilization that denied death ended denying life itself. Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo felt as his compatriot and friend Octavio Paz did about recognizing death’s presence in life. Could it be that Tamayo was thumbing his nose and mocking it in his painting The Scoffer (91.155)?

Rufino Tamayo, The Scoffer (1946), oil on canvas, Gift of Maxine and Kalman S. Goldenberg, 91.155.

Oaxaca, Rufino Tamayo’s birthplace, stands out for its rich tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead the first two days of November. Today, tourists from all over come for bright festivities that feature live music, processions, and huge figures of sand. The living reunite with deceased relatives at the cemetery, bringing with them offerings of colorfully decorated skulls and skeletons molded in sugar, cut out of paper, modeled in clay, and illustrated in ink and paint. Poems and verses are dedicated to the deceased. And the living never forget the essential ingredient for a sentimental, appealing, and joyful celebration: the loved one’s favorite foods. All this, along with the pungent scent of the marigold (cempasútshil) and the attraction of colorful cockscomb (cresta de gallo) flowers placed on the graves, lure the dead to return for a visit to the living each year.

Colima, Dog (c. 100-300 CE), clay, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John R. Kennedy, 99.57.3.

Based on the traditions of the ancient Mixtec peoples of the Oaxaca and other nearby regions, archeologist Eduardo Merlo told of the belief that the deceased did not really die until reaching the other side of the Chignahuapán river. The dead person had to cross this wide and fast-flowing river to get to the limits between life and death. If the person did not make it across, the awaiting fate was nothingness. Among the items placed in the grave, new clothes and offerings of clay, jade or wood were included for the deceased to begin this long journey of nine arduous trials. Most importantly, the person had a dog to guide the way across the river and reach the final resting place of Mictlán with the offerings for its ruler Mictlantecuatl. This clarifies why sculptures such as Mia’s Dog (99.57.3) were found in graves.

Contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico and around the world are rooted in the traditions and rituals honoring the dead in Mesoamerica 3,000 years ago. In their cyclical concept of the universe, death was seen as integral and ever-present in life. This concept is represented in House Group (47.2.37). Since no evidence existed of the ancient Nayarit living in two-story houses, many scholars concluded that the sculpture expressed a belief that life and death existed in close proximity by showing the living taking part in their daily activities, just as the dead were doing on the lower level. This sculpture had been placed in an ancient grave along with other offerings including food and drink to keep the living and the dead closely connected.

Nayarit, House Group (c. 100-400 CE), clay, pigments, The John R. Van Derlip Fund, 47.2.37.

Several years ago, I read a verse placed on an ofrenda (an altar of offerings) that best reveals this warm and intimate connection between life and death:

“I’ll take you in my arms and you’ll feel my caresses.
We’ll dance your whole life through until the day that I kiss you.”

From my translation of:
“En mis manos te tomaré y sabrás de mis caricias.
Bailaremos toda la vida hasta que te bese ese día.”

Article contributed by Maria Eggemeyer

Special thanks to our 2022 Art in Bloom Host Committee

We honor these mother-daughter pairs who each and together weave a significant legacy of time, talent, and treasure on behalf of the Friends and Mia.



Phyllis Colwell, Friends President 1983-85, Art in Bloom Founder, Art in Bloom Honorary Chair, 1988 and Carolyn Dahl, Friends President 2011-13, longtime Friends Member




Mary Agnes McQuinn, Delacroix acquisition donor, longtime Friends and Mia patron and Susan Arndt, Mia Guide(Docent), Chair of Friends Lecture Committee and several Art in Bloom Committees



Gretchen Holland, Delacroix acquisition donor, longtime Friends and Mia patron andHeidi Holland Ault, Delacroix acquisition donor, Preview Party Committee, Friends Fashion Shows Producer



Holly McDougall, Friends member and Mia Guide and Kristen McDougall, longtime Mia Guide and Chair of Friends Art & Architecture Committee





Margene Fox, Friends President 2001-03, Art in Bloom Co-Chair 1996 andAllison Greene, Mia Guide, Friends Membership Committee Co-Chair



Linda Boelter, Art in Bloom Co-Chair 2002 and 2011, Honorary Chair, 2016, Art Per Chance Co-Chair 2008 and Carrie Kilberg, Art Per Chance Co-Chair 2008, Art in Bloom Co-Chair 2016, longtime Friends Member and supporter



Elizabeth Whitbeck (In Memoriam), longtime Friends Member and supporter andBetsey Whitbeck, Art in Bloom Co-Chair 2012, longtime Friends Member, supporter, and advisor


Marilyn Sundberg Friends Board, Delacroix acquisition donor, Art Perchance and Art in Bloom Committees andMolly Van Metre Friends Board and Advisor, past Treasurer, Art Perchance and other Friends Committees



Connie Sommers, Friends President 2015-17, Art in Bloom Co-Chair, Centennial Committee, Mia Guide andWhitney Sommers, Friends Centennial Committee



Linda Goldenberg, Friends President 2003-05, Co-Chair Art Per Chance and Salon, Mia Guide andRachel Hanson, Friends Member and supporter


Friends Book Club

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Mark your calendar for Friday, April 15 at 10 am for a lively discussion at Friends Book Club followed at 10:45 by a guided art tour.  We will be discussing the book in the café in the Mia Lobby.

April’s showers bring us back into Mia and a live Friends book discussion and tour with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  The novel is about the adventures of Liesel Meminger in Germany during a time of war. By personifying “Death” as a tangible thing, the novel narrates a unique perspective into the world of the victims of the war. Please join us as we view the story enhanced by Mia’s fabulous works of art.

Please sign up by  at friends@artsmia.org or 612-870-3045.

This event is a Friends Only Event.  Looking forward to seeing you in April!

Centennial History Publication Column: Stepping Back in Time

Holiday Shopping on the Mind?

In 1956, Friends were asked to be in charge of ordering and sales of artwork reproductions primarily sold at the museum’s Sales and Information Desk. So, it was a natural transition to be asked by then Mia director Richard Davis, to run the museum’s gift shop. Friends agreed to take on this huge responsibility. Until the mid-1990s, Friends managed all hiring, staffing, accounting, selling, buying, and payroll duties for the museum shop. Profits were designated for Mia to cover costs of special projects. At the height of this time period, more than 60 Friends volunteers filled scheduled hours.

To maintain consistency in the duties and performance of volunteers, each volunteer received “The Museum Shop Volunteer Book of Knowledge.” As mentioned in the first page of the manual, “We are not a small shop run ‘for fun.’ We are a major contributor to the Acquisitions Fund of Mia. The Friends are extremely necessary to the well-being of the shop.”

The manual continues with general advice regarding restroom breaks, mentioning a volunteer never goes to the restroom or takes a break when there are 50 people in the shop. Also, volunteers are “never afraid of rain, sleet, snow, spiders, or dust!” In terms of expected attire: “We love to see you looking beautiful, but practicality must reign. Our new carpet is very nice to stand on, but comfortable shoes are a must. The climate of the shop varies quite a great deal. The best way to dress is in layers–you never know—sometimes we take off and sometimes adding on is a necessity.” Food is discouraged in the shop proper, and cigarettes may be enjoyed with the available coffee in the staff lounge. 

The manual continues to state that volunteers are not expected to know everything, but please ask if an answer is needed: “Never lie to a customer—they may know more than we think.” Never express negative comments to a potential buyer trying on jewelry. “We all have different tastes…keep comments in your head. And she who slammeth jewelry drawers, spendeth long hours straightening them!” And most importantly, we all know jewelry is lovely, but try them on while you are not working! And finally, keep those jewelry drawers locked: “We trust no one!”

One additional comment from the extensive volunteer manual recommends volunteers do not shop while on duty. “While you shop, so does the shoplifter. Thanks be to those who do not!”

Lastly, but perhaps most important, the volunteer manual stresses  “development and maintenance of a professional attitude in interactions with customers, staff members, and other museum shop employees. A positive outlook is contagious!”

Over the years, many treasures and gifts have been purchased in the museum’s gift shop to celebrate special occasions.  Now it’s time for Friends to commemorate and celebrate its own treasures on its 100th birthday that will take place on January 20, 2022. What better way to celebrate this milestone than attending the January lecture featuring Dr. Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, followed by a ticketed luncheon filled with celebration. At this luncheon, each current Friends member will receive a complimentary copy of the Friends centennial publication, Friends of 100 Years, A Lasting Legacy.

 Centennial History Publication Committee

Pamela Friedland
Linda Goldenberg
Mary Merrick
Suzanne Payne
Connie Sommers

Delacroix Pledge Update

The Friends of the Institute, in celebration of their 100th anniversary, pledged a gift of $1,050,000 for the Eugene Delacroix’s Still Life in Dahlias, Hollyhocks and Plums (detail), c. 1835.

$1,050,000 goal will bring the Delacroix into full bloom! $747,613 raised to date!




$747,613 raised to date





As the Friends celebrate their legacy with this beautiful gift to Mia in their centennial year, the progress made towards fulfilling our commitment will be featured by bringing the painting into full bloom with generous gifts from you! Thanks to those who contributed $2,000 since last month!

Checks can be made out to “Friends of the Institute” and sent to the Friends office. Please indicate that your donation is for the Delacroix Fund. For gifts other than checks, please contact the Friends Office for assistance by calling 612-870-3045.
Our address is: Friends of the Institute, Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404

President’s Letter

Dear Members,

Have you strolled the Mia galleries lately? Simply walking into the building is a color trip as russet, gold and lime leaves swirl around Third Avenue.

I recommend a visit to The Contemporary Print, 20 Years at Highpoint Editions exhibition (October 9 through January 9). The remarkable prints hanging on the walls (such as Harriet by Rico Gatson, pictured below) are buoyed by labels that spotlight the printmaking process.

Rico Gatson (American, born 1966), Harriet, 2018, Color photolithograph and photopolymer gravure.

The exhibition includes a pop-up print studio where local artists conduct live printmaking every other Saturday. On your way out, consider a stop at Agra Culture for a cup of hot coffee and a generously sized cookie.

As always, our dedicated committees have planned an outstanding itinerary of events for you. As members you are invited to:

  • Shop at our clearance sale on December 1 and 2. Find beautiful new items originally purchased for the 2019 and 2020 Art in Bloom shop. All items priced to sell. More details to come.
  • Participate in the Friends book club and private tour on Friday, November 20. We’re reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
  • Attend the Friends lecture on Thursday, November 11. Tova Brandt, Director of the Danish Museum will talk about mid-century modern Danish design.
  • Attend a Friends Only talk on Wednesday, November 17. The topic is Post-Impressionism.
  • Mark your calendars — January 20, 2022 will be an exceptionally brilliant day with the Friends Centennial kick-off lecture and luncheon. Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery in
    Florence will give the Fiterman Lecture, followed by an elegant luncheon in the Target Reception Hall. Look for your invitation soon.

These events were planned with you in mind. Enjoy these and all the  benefits of your membership by renewing early. Details and ticketing are found in this newsletter.

Thanks for being a Friend of the Institute.

My best,

Stepping Back in Time

Friends Sales and Rental Gallery

When the Little Gallery opened within the museum’s gift shop in 1961, its mission was to draw attention to  regional sculptors, graphic artists, and painters and their work.

To find the artists represented, the Little Gallery coordinator, often accompanied by  a volunteer, would travel throughout the region to scout outstanding talent at college and university art departments, art centers, local studios and art shows. Ads were placed in art magazines and newspapers requesting interested artists to submit resumes and slides to the Gallery.

To approve the art, a selection review committee was established that consisted of local collectors, artists, and curators. Excellence in originality and technique were important criteria for selection. The art was reasonably priced, with intent to sell. These Upper Midwest artists experienced exposure to a wider market, increasing the number of potential buyers.

The name was eventually changed to the Friends Sales and Rental Gallery, largely run by Friends volunteers and a paid coordinator. Two-month rentals were available to Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts members, with most prices beginning at just $50. If preferred, these pieces could also be purchased by members as well as the general public. Profits from the gallery were designated towards the wish list submitted by the museum director.

In 1975, the Friends Gallery initiated annual exhibitions at area corporate business offices such as 1st National Bank of St. Paul, Ellerbe, Inc., and National Life Insurance Company. Invitations were sent out for exhibition openings, with the event often including celebrity hosts. The exhibition would remain open for several weeks, allowing area businesses to enjoy the art as well as purchase favorite pieces for their own private collections.

Friends felt it was important to provide an educational component to the Gallery’s existence so in 1980, a complimentary mini-course was offered called “Viewpoints on Collecting Contemporary Art.”  Shortly afterwards, a one-day walking tour of galleries and artist studios was arranged, allowing visitors to converse with area artists.

Unfortunately in 1986 the Friends Board voted to phase out the Gallery. As written to one artist, “At a time when there are fewer galleries in the area to provide artists with an opportunity to exposure, fewer consultants and a strong need for the educational role of our gallery, we felt that we could provide an unmet need in the community. With the changing needs of the Institute and the growing number of galleries and consultants in the community it was felt that the Gallery had fulfilled the mission it set out to accomplish.”

A reminder: Friends membership renewals will be due in January of 2022. (Please note that next year all renewals will take place at one time, not scattered throughout the year as previously done.) With your January renewal, you will continue to enjoy all the benefits of being a Friends member and you will receive your complementary copy of Friends for One Hundred Years: A Lasting Legacy. This book highlights the past 100 years of Friends and guides us into the next era of supporting Mia, the surrounding community, and enjoying the strong friendships we have developed sharing these same goals.

The Centennial History Publication Committee
Pamela Friedland
Linda Goldenberg
Mary Merrick
Suzanne Payne
Connie Sommers


Friends Membership

New and existing membership news coming soon

In spite of the challenges of the past two years, the Friends have seen some of the most exciting growth in our history. Thanks to each of you, we are as vibrant as ever and poised to enter our second century with incredible momentum and increase in membership. 

In next month’s newsletter, we’ll introduce updates to the Friends membership renewal opportunity. 

In the meantime, please take advantage of all of the events that are available to the Friends members at Mia.

Friends for 100 Years: 2022 Centennial Calendar of Events

Save the date for a year of celebrations in honor of the Friends 100th anniversary. More details to come! 

January 20, 2022    Kickoff lecture, Eike Schmidt followed by a  celebratory luncheon

February 10, 2022   Bring a Friend, lecture and luncheon

April 17-August, 2022    Cargill Gallery Botanical Exhibit

April 27-May 1, 2022    Art in Bloom 

June 15, 2022    Joint Event – Friends and Hennepin History Museum

June 23, 2022     FairOaks Washburn Walking tour

June 24, 2022    FairOaks Washburn Walking tour   

July 14, 2022    Garden Party on Lake Minnetonka

August  TBA    Dahlia Unveiling

September 8, 2022   Sandy Schreier lecture and luncheon with informal modeling

September 9, 2022   Joint Event – Friends and Goldstein Museum Reception

October  TBA

November 10, 2022  Volunteer Recognition Reception following lecture – Special Thanks Rochester and St Cloud Friends

December 11, 2022    Learning and Innovation Program, Sankofa Project Ends