The only thing they forgot was to ask the last name of the visitor, "Lauren," who had stopped by to check out the museum's popular Art In Bloom exhibit which pairs artful flower arrangements with paintings and sculpture from the museum's collection. Her boyfriend's grandmother, a veteran AIB flower arranger, was in the show for the 10th year.
Museum officials attribute the record setting attendance to novel programming including such things as a midwinter "pop-up park" in the lobby, rallies that have thrown the doors open to bike riders, and the popularity of the year's brand-name exhibitions: "China's Terracotta Warriors," which drew 146,507 visitors, and "Rembrandt in America," which pulled 107,090 people. Together those two shows attracted 78,000 visitors beyond the number they were projected to draw.
The 600,000 tops the previous record set in fiscal 2002-2003 when a trifecta of Egyptian, Picasso and American landscape art shows attracted 599,834 visitors. The museum sometimes claimed more than 600,000 visitors in the 1990s, but those numbers sometimes included attendance at off-site programs too. For the past 15 years its counts have been based on more accurate means of measuring. This year's attendance is expected to continue growing until the fiscal year ends June 30.
And the full name of the 600,000th visitor to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this fiscal year is (ta da!): Lauren Stryker. Her flower-arranging grandmother, La Verne Stryker, called to identify her and note, proudly, that Lauren is married to La Verne’s grandson Nicholas Stryker. The Stryker family are longtime members of the Minneapolis museum where La Verne even worked one summer in the 1980s in the office of then director Sam Sachs.
For this year’s Art in Bloom program, La Verne took as inspiration John Singer Sargent’s popular 1887 painting “The Birthday” whose bold palette of crimson, white and black she translated into a lush bouquet of red carnations, large white “football” and “spider” mums, and dark green leaves to simulate the painting's dusky shadows.
The 600,000th visitor to the MIA this fiscal year, being serenaded Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.