United States

10 Exhibitions to Visit in Minnesota this Summer

by Paul Joseph  |  Published May 6, 2024

Bordering Canada and Lake Superior in the midwestern US, the state of Minnesota is dense with cultural venues where you’ll find thought-provoking exhibitions taking place throughout the year.

Régis François Gignoux (French/American, 1816-1882), On the Upper Hudson, 1862. Oil on canvas. Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Collection.

The bustling “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and state capital Saint Paul are at the heart of Minnesota’s rich cultural life – but you don’t need to venture far beyond to discover museums and galleries sprinkled further afield too. For anyone coming to Minnesota this summer, a busy programme of exhibitions awaits them. We’ve picked out 10 that they may want to add to their itinerary.

Re/Framing The View: Nineteenth-century American Landscapes

Nineteenth-century American artists are well known for their depictions of nature and the outdoors. However, the majority were men, and heading out into the wilderness to capture the scene was viewed as a masculine pursuit. This exhibition features a selection of objects – including china, nature studies in watercolour, and decorative arts – that underscore the gendered aspects of American landscape painting by demonstrating where and how women participated in capturing American flora and fauna.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona  / Through 4 August 

Contemporary Works on Paper by Women Artists

Eleanor Spiess-Ferris (American, born 1941), The Filly, 1981, gouache, graphite, and colored pencil on paper. Gift of Kohler Foundation, Inc. and Eleanor Spiess-Ferris 2023.81.2

Another summer museum offering that shines a light on the achievements of female artists, this exhibition showcases a selection of watercolours, drawings, and original prints spanning the period 1975 to 2023, all by women – some celebrated, others less widely known. Collectively, the selection reflects ongoing efforts to re-examine and reset how better to reflect the remarkable diversity of artistic achievement in the US and elsewhere. By continuing to champion the work of artists underrepresented, the exhibition and museum as a whole help to play its part in this endeavour.

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis / Through 13 October 2024

Anatoly Zverev: Under the Soviet Radar

A legendary figure of the Moscow underground art scene in post-Stalinist Moscow, Anatoli Zverev was a rebel who defied conventions, standards, and rules both in his art and in his life. Zverev developed his own manner of painting, similar to the post-WWII French style of Tachisme – a style characterised by intuitive and spontaneous brushwork, often with dripping paint from the tube. This exhibition features more than 30 rare works by Zverev, providing a fascinating retrospective about his unconventional life. prolific career and the lasting legacy of his influential body of artistic work.

The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis / Through 23 June 2024

The Dorothy Molter Museum Permanent Collection

(Photo: Terri Schocke)

This museum brings the story of Dorothy Molter, the last non-indigenous permanent resident of The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), to life through a variety of exhibits and videos in three of her historic log cabins. The famed Root Beer Lady of Knife Lake lived most of her 79 years on the border of the U.S. and Canada at the Isle of Pines, and each year as many as 6,000 visitors from all over the world would stop by. Dorothy was known by most for her homemade root beer but was also well known for her wilderness nursing skills, helping thousands of canoers with medical needs. After her death, her cabins were dismantled and transported out of the BWCAW by dogsled and brought to Ely. A visit includes access inside the three cabin exhibits including two videos, a nature trail, a birding garden and guided programs.

The Dorothy Molter Museum, Ely / Permanent

Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed

The Maya people created the longest-lasting civilisation of the Western Hemisphere, their culture enduring through changes, wars, and disasters until it was suppressed by Spanish colonisation in the 16th and 17th centuries. Presented in both English and Spanish, this exhibition gives visitors a glimpse at ancient Maya life – from mighty kings who ruled powerful cities to the artisans and labourers who formed the backbone of society. Through more than 200 artefacts, as well as hands-on activities, informative videos and lifelike simulations, it sheds light on a cross-section of life in this deeply influential culture.

Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul / Through 4 September

The Experience of Expression

(Photo: Mary Abbott, Cygne Sauvage de Nîmes (Wild Swan of Nîmes), 1955-1965, oil and oil crayon on canvas, 77 1/2 x 78 5/16 x 1 1/4 in. Collection of the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Gift of the artist. 1992.17.)

Art is often highlighted for its ability to evoke empathy as we experience the artist’s emotions along with our own. However, this exhibition offers a counterpoint to this by proposing that resonance belongs to the moment of a viewer’s encounter, rather than the work itself. Drawing inspiration from critiques of expression theory – a concept popularised by the early 20th-century European Expressionist movement and New York-based Abstract Expressionism – the exhibition invites viewers to contemplate the expressive nature of each artwork on display and think about what the artist may have felt, what the art might be showing you, and the relationship you might hold with it.

Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota Minneapolis / Through 21 July

Firsthand: Contemporary Craft in Context

Minnesota is remarkably rich in history, resources, education, and contemporary activity around craft. This exhibition turns the spotlight on five local craft-design creators working today across a range of materials, backgrounds, styles, and scales. With more than 75 items on display from across the Twin Cities and beyond, the exhibition showcases leather shoes, woollen knitwear, thrown pottery, ceramic tiles, and youth-built boats. The products featured in the exhibition are all  contextualised through information and stories on the people, tools, operations, and environments that produced them.

Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota Minneapolis  / Through 3 August


Elvis Drum, Small Destroyed World, acrylic on canvas, 2023

This mixed media art exhibition features artwork from ten Minnesota artist families of diverse ages and family structures. Each of them have created works for the exhibition, which was conceived with the aim of elevating children’s artwork and providing a space for parent artists to support each other as they fulfil the roles of parents and artists while raising a new generation of makers. It also serves to showcase artists who have contributed to Minnesota’s artistic community and their children who are integral influences on their arts practice.

Minnesota Museum of American Art, Saint Paul / Through 13 October 2024


(Photo: The Bakken Museum)

This permanent exhibition showcases how a spark can be anything that transforms someone from a consumer into a creator, showing how when they occur they reveal a diverse and uniquely human tradition – one that both fuels our wildest imaginations and satisfies our most practical concerns. Highlights include an immersive mural experience that explores the ways people use strategies from nature to solve human challenges, an Animation Station where visitors can create their own stop-motion movie, and a specially designed phone booth where you can hear how communication has changed over time to connect people and cultures.

The Bakken Museum, Minneapolis / Permanent

Going Out, Coming In: LGBTQ+ Spaces in Downtown Minneapolis

This photography exhibition explores the historical importance of downtown Minneapolis’ LGBTQIA+ community spaces throughout the 20th century. Through a diverse range of informative photographic artefacts, it details how queer history has been present and intertwined with the neighbourhood’s development during that period, allowing visitors to deepen their understanding of downtown Minneapolis and those who lived in and visited the community. The images feature places where the city’s queer community gathered to address the systemic challenges of discrimination, urban renewal, and HIV/AIDS.

Mill City Museum, Minneapolis / Through 14 July 2024