Winona brings world class art to the riverfront

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona is quickly becoming a destination for serious art lovers in the Midwest.

‘La Siene a Vetheuil’ by Claude Monet, 1881
Image courtesy the MMAM

Founded in 2006, the museum began as the home of the Maritime Heritage Society, displaying model ships, royal sailing flags and paintings with a nautical theme.

But the riverside museum, whose motto is “Great Art Flows Through Us” has expanded its collection to include significant paintings inspired by water.

A recent tour of the collection included works by Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Marsden Hartley and Andrew Wyeth.

‘Françoise in a round-backed chair, reading’ by Mary Cassatt, 1909
Image courtesy the MMAM

Executive Director Andrew Maus says the museum benefits from a couple of generous benefactors/art collectors who have given the museum work on long-term loan, as well as a city leadership that’s actively involved in promoting the arts.

The folks that are investing in the museum are doing it because they believe in education. To me the amazing thing is being a part of closing the arts and culture gap that typically exists between urban and rural life. I’m somewhat surprised at how well we can do it despite our small population.

Winona is home to less than 28,000 people, but boasts an increasing number of cultural attractions, including a Shakespeare festival, a Beethoven festival, a winter film festival and a music festival.

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is located on the Mississippi River in Winona; it’s architecture is inspired by old boat warehouses.
Image courtesy the MMAM

The town is home to two universities – Winona State University and St. Mary’s University – as well as major companies RTP and Fastenal. Maus says it’s a great combination.

When you have an art museum it’s really handy to be near both the business world and academia. I hate to use the word synergy, but that’s what’s at work here. For decades Winona was a sleepy river town and it’s not anymore. It’s still on the river, but it’s not sleepy anymore.

In addition to its permanent collection, the MMAM is also host to a series of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. This fall the museum will celebrate the addition of more than 4,000 square feet of gallery and office space, and the installation of efficient LED lighting.