Minneapolis Russian art museum appoints first Russian-speaking director

  • Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 7, 2014 - 8:05 PM

Moscow-educated historian tasked with helping TMORA grow.

The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) in south Minneapolis has hired a new director, Vladimir von Tsurikov, a German-born scholar and museum director with deep Russian ties.

Since 2011, Von Tsurikov has been director of the Foundation of Russian History in Jordanville, N.Y., which lent much of the czarist memorabilia featured in TMORA’s spring exhibit “The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost.” That show attracted 24,000 visitors, a record for the 12-year-old museum.

“At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, I think Vladimir is the complete package of what we need at this time,” outgoing director Brad Shinkle said.

Von Tsurikov, 44, is the museum’s first Russian-speaking director. His ancestors include the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, credited with defeating Napoleon in 1812. His grandfather, an officer in Russia’s White Army, left Russia after the 1917 revolution and settled the family in Germany, where Von Tsurikov grew up.

After moving to the United States in 1988, he earned an M.A. in Russian language and literature from Middlebury College and a doctorate in Russian history at Moscow Theological Academy.

Von Tsurikov was associated with Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville from 1996 to 2011, rising from administrative assistant to dean of the seminary and director of its archives and library. He was also a project archivist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution of War, Revolution and Peace from 2007 to 2008.

Founded in 2002 by Minneapolis businessman Ray Johnson, TMORA began as a showcase for Soviet-era socialist-realist paintings. In 2005 it moved from a Bloomington warehouse to its present site in a renovated Spanish Colonial-style church at 55th Street and Stevens Avenue S. Since then it has expanded its exhibitions to encompass all of Russian history and art, from archaeological artifacts to contemporary painting, historic photos and Czarist memorabilia. It has a full-time staff of six and a $1.5 million annual budget.

Shinkle, a longtime Johnson associate, served as TMORA’s first director until attorney Judi Dutcher was hired in 2008. When she left, Shinkle took charge again from 2011 through March 2012. The institution’s third director, Chris DiCarlo, lasted from March 2012 through May 2013. He left “by mutual agreement.”

Shinkle, 70, has run the place since DiCarlo left and will stay on until Von Tsurikov takes over in September.

His chief challenges, Shinkle said, are to expand the museum’s visibility, strengthen attendance, expand the donor base, grow its board of directors and bring in more grants and financial contributions.

“We expect this generation of leadership will be more effective in fundraising than the predecessors,” he said.

Von Tsurikov and his wife, Anna Klar, have two sons in college and a 3-year-old daughter.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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