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