A favorite charity of the socialite set, the Goldstein Museum has amassed an enormous archive of historic fashions -- everything from vintage Chanel to luxurious coats from bygone Twin Cities department stores like Dayton's, Schlampp's and Young Quinlan. No, you're not allowed to roam the Goldstein's vault of goodies. You can, however, peruse the museum's rotating exhibits on costume design, architecture and other facets of object culture.
The Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota, 241 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, 612-624-7801, goldstein.design.umn.edu
A true original, the Soap Factory isn't easily categorized. It fits somewhere between avant-garde gallery and contemporary art museum. "We like to think of ourselves as a laboratory and studio space," says executive director Ben Heywood. "We are an empty vessel into which art is poured." True to its name, the nonprofit organization is in a 130-year-old soap factory donated by the Pillsbury company in 1995. The primitive building features warped floorboards, rustic brick walls -- and no insulation. But that keeps prices on the low side, creating a space where "artists can experiment without fear of failure," says Heywood. The Soap Factory also presents some of the coolest special events in town, including the 10-Second Film Festival in July and the 99 Dollar Sale every September.
This unusual museum lives in a decidedly un-Minnesotan Spanish colonial-revival building, built to resemble the Alamo. And the cultural mix-ups don't end there. The Museum of Russian Art was started by locals Ray and Susan Johnson, owners of the largest collection of Russian realist paintings outside the former Soviet Union. Founded in 2002, the museum has since connected with international museums and private collectors to curate exhibitions on Russian photography, sculpture, textiles and even matryoshka dolls. Located in Minneapolis, the Museum of Russian art is the only museum in North America dedicated solely to the art of Russia.
The Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-821-9045, tmora.org
Serving artists and art lovers in the Twin Ports region, the century-old Duluth Art Institute is a non-collecting organization that presents a high volume of solo and group exhibitions by living, breathing artists. The "Blockbuster Series" brings the work of one national artist every summer, perhaps Norman Rockwell paintings or a Wing Young Huie retrospective. "The rest of our shows feature artists from the Twin Ports, or those who have connections to the area" says Laura Daugherty, operations and development manager.
Duluth Art Institute, 506 W. Michigan St., Duluth, 218-733-7560, duluthartinstitute.org
"With the Mayo Clinic here, Rochester gets a lot of visitors from around the world," says Naura Anderson, spokeswoman for the Rochester Art Center. Here, cosmopolitan visitors are treated to a high-quality contemporary arts environment, "like something they might find in a larger city," says Anderson. The experience starts with the newly constructed copper- and zinc-wrapped building, resembling a stack of shimmering blocks. Once inside, gallery-goers can browse smart exhibitions on photography, painting and collage created by contemporary visual artists from Minnesota and beyond.
Rochester Art Center, 40 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester, 507-282-8629, rochesterartcenter.org