The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is used to looking back. For decades, the museum largely focused on celebrating artists of the past. But these days, the museum wants to turn its gaze forward.
“We’re really shifting our focus from the MIA is top dog and everybody else has to be under our umbrella, to instead reaching out to these other experts and creating something bigger than each of our individuals together,” said Hunter Wright, MIA’s first venture innovation director.
In the past few months, the MIA overhauled its dining program and redesigned its gift store. Now, the storied art institute is teaming with Mac and Katherine McMillan, the Minneapolis duo behind the menswear market, Northern Grade, to bring a new kind of exhibition within its white walls: a store of American-made goods.
“It’s a touch-and-feel gallery,” Wright said.
For the exhibition, the McMillans tapped into their eye for style and top-notch craftsmanship to curate a group of 14 American makers (below). Instead of sculpture, the museum’s vitrines will display Sanborn canoe paddles, Red Wing shoes and handmade denim jeans like the fine art objects they are.
“It’s very minimalistic and different from most normal boutiques and stores,” Mac McMillan said. “There is a small placard next to each brand that tells [its] story, just like if you were viewing a Rembrandt or Monet in the museum.”
The Northern Grade collaboration is one of several events slated on the museum’s calendar in the coming months that are meant to give people a more casual and fun experience at the MIA.
“It is unexpected, but it shouldn’t be,” Wright said. “We share these common values, and that should be represented. Just because we have this major monumental, historical space, doesn’t mean we aren’t nimble and forward thinking.”
The Northern Grade exhibition/store opens tonight in MIA’s Cargill Gallery (see list of participating makers below), and will run through Jan. 3. During that time, the MIA will host a Black Friday shopping event and two special makers nights where you can meet the people behind the products and learn what it means to be American made (Dec. 19 and Dec. 26).