Moorhead historic home sale provokes anger

  • Associated Press
  • November 22, 2013 - 5:50 PM

MOORHEAD, Minn. — A historic home that's one of the oldest in the city of Moorhead is on the auction block, much to the chagrin of some of its fans.

The home near downtown Moorhead, built in 1882, housed the Rourke Art Gallery until 2011. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports Friday that Rourke Art Museum members were notified by letter this week that the house — the original home of the Rourke Art Galley — would be auctioned off on Dec. 17 ( ).

The Rourke's director, Tania Blanich, wrote in the letter that proceeds from the auction would go to paying down debt on the museum's main building in downtown Moorhead. She wrote that two locations were diluting the museum's resources.

"It is our collective responsibility as friends and supporters of the Rourke to embrace opportunities that ensure its legacy and promise - and strengthen its future," the letter stated. The museum expanded to the downtown site in 1996, but continued to hold eight to 10 exhibitions a year at the gallery.

James O'Rourke opened the Rourke Art Gallery at the house in 1961. He died in 2011. John Rowell was interim director after O'Rourke's death, but he left the board in January over differences with Blanich, who took over the director's position in early 2012.

Rowell called the decision to sell the house a "calculated act of cultural vandalism." He said the board of directors held no public meetings on the decision. Painter Jonathan Rutter, who held several exhibitions at the gallery, called it "a tragic situation."

"This is really bad news for Moorhead in a way," he said. "The arts are a major party of developing a community and guess what, Moorhead doesn't have a gallery anymore."

But board of directors president Brad Bachmeier said the Rourke's mission won't change. "In the long term, it's just not viable," he said of trying to sustain the two buildings.

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