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Friends History

The Friends mission shall be to broaden the influence of the Institute throughout the community by supporting its activities and forwarding its interests in ways suggested or approved by the Trustees of The Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 —Founding Statement, 1922

Friends of the Institute was founded in 1922 in memory of Ethel Morrison Van Derlip, whose extraordinary efforts to promote the arts inspired her friends. The new organization’s membership was unlimited. The Friends did not want to give the impression of being a select group, so membership at the time was open to any woman who desired to belong. Dues were $2, and by October of that first year, there were 110 members.

Since then, more than a thousand dedicated men and women have significantly contributed to the Minneapolis Institute of Art through the Friends volunteer service, financial support, and goodwill throughout the community. In the early years the Friends provided funds for museum improvements and acquisitions for the permanent collection. Eventually office space was created within the museum in which to organize events, raise funds, and conduct tours. The Friends continue to administer and endow Friends Funds to support valuable museum programs.

The museum’s distinguished docent program, now led by museum staff, developed out of these earlier efforts, as did other fundamental museum services. For example, during the mid-1950s, museum Trustees invited the Friends to manage a sales desk. For many years, Friends volunteers also operated the Museum Shop and Visitor and Member Services desk.

Next time you’re in the museum, take a look around. Nearly everything you see has somehow been influenced by the Friends.

Friends in Rochester and St. Cloud began affiliation in the 1980s and actively attend Thursday lectures. They also sponsor special programs and events in both cities.

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