We are so lucky to have the Walker Art Center in the Twin Cities. With its visual-art exhibitions, performing arts shows, and films screenings that can't be found anywhere else, it's the place to go to get some of the most cutting-edge contemporary art forms from all over the world. The WAC develops relationships with artists throughout their career, commissioning new works by the likes of Bill T. Jones, Eiko and Koma, and Meredith Monk. It also finds a place for local artists through commissioning new pieces from groups like Body Cartography Project, hosting the annual Choreographers' Evening, and including local artists in its major exhibitions (Ruben Nusz's contribution to "Lifelike" being a recent example). The Walker has innovative free programming on Thursday nights, and free family events on the first Saturday of the month. Plus, the Walker's Open Field, taking place on the grounds outside the museum, has proved to be a rousing success.
Even if you can't afford to travel around the globe, you can see masterpieces from all different cultures and eras at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Each visit will afford a new discovery, whether it's spending time with a Monet or a Rembrandt, checking out the incredibly beautiful Chinese jade collection, or viewing some of the spectacular American Indian pieces. While the museum has plenty of masterpieces from long ago and far away, it has recently started putting more emphasis on contemporary art as well. The museum also has the MAEP galleries, which showcase the great wealth of local artists here in Minnesota. Each month the MIA also hosts the very fun Third Thursday.
The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) is a wonderfully intimate museum, located in what was formerly Mayflower Church, built in a Spanish Colonial-Revival style. The museum's small size makes it perfect for a short outing, as you're usually able to peruse the entire collection in one visit, making it a little less daunting than larger art institutions. The rotating exhibits are original and quite different from anything else you might see here in the Twin Cities, focusing on Russian art from different periods. An added bonus is that the museum has a wonderful little gift shop, with free tea and cookies, that is a must-stop every time you visit.
Located on the west shore of Lake Calhoun, the Bakken Museum is housed in a 1920s mansion designed by Carl Gage for William Goodfellow. The structure combines English Tudor, European Gothic Revival, and other architectural styles. The museum began from the collection of Earl Bakken, an engineer and the co-founder of Medtronic. Bakken had a strong interest in historical scientific instruments, and accumulated quite a library of scientific books. The museum now hosts lots of different kinds of programming, including Frankenstein's Laboratory, a 12-minute show that brings the tale of Frankenstein to life; "Ben Franklin's Electricity Party," which allows visitors to see how electricity works; as well as other fun and interactive activities. You'll want to be sure to check out the gardens, too. There's the Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden, inspired by similar European gardens; the Green Energy Art Garden; and the Dakota Native Plants Gardens, encompassing the wetlands area on the east side of the museum.
The Minnesota Historical Society, the nonprofit organization behind the Minnesota History Center, has -- not unlike other museums across the country -- a rather problematic history in relation to American Indian people, as they displayed Chief Little Crow's remains after his death in 1863. However, in recent years the organization has made efforts to return objects and human remains to the tribes they belong to. They have also sought to include Native perspectives on the history of Minnesota. The current exhibit "The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862" is an attempt to tell the whole story of what really happened to the Dakota people, and is definitely an important exhibit for any Minnesotan to see (it's on view until September). Also at the museum is the popular "Greatest Generation Exhibit," and next fall "American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" should be a fun one to check out. The Minnesota Historical Society has one of the best libraries in the state, and is housed in the same building. It's a great place to do research on family history.
Changes are coming for the Bell Museum, which plans to move into a new building at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus as soon as funding is secured. In the meantime, there's a lot to like about the current space, which has a very old-school feel. Filled with creepy yet awesome taxidermy, exhibits about the environment, and neato dioramas created by Minnesota artist Francis Lee Jaques, the museum provides a much more intimate experience in some ways than going to the Science Museum. And if you're interested in stars, the Exploradome (the product of a merger with the Bell and the Planetarium Society), offers shows every day.
The Minnesota Children's Museum is a great place for kids to have fun and learn at the same time. Whether they're playing in one of the museum's immersive habitats, exploring artmaking on the Rooftop Artpark, or checking out one of the rotating traveling exhibits, this is a great place where kids get to discover and have fun.