The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
TRIBUTE TO TWEED
TWEED MUSEUM OF ART CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY
In November of 1999 a UMD student walked through the Tweed Museum of Art. Like thousands before her, it was the first time she had entered an art museum or a museum of any kind.
Her steps took her to the American and the European Collection. She viewed Japanese ceramics, landscapes, Impressionist paintings and abstract art. The colors and textures spoke. History and humanity marched across the walls. She saw the faces of people long gone and the shapes of timeless mountains. In the paintings and sculpture she saw the heroes, beliefs and traditions of many cultures.
Could Mrs. Alice Tweed Tuohy have visualized a student like this one when she presented the first painting to the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1950? Would George P. Tweed have imagined 35,000 people a year viewing the works he bought at New York City art auctions in the 1920s?
These two people, George P. Tweed, the collector, and Mrs. Alice Tweed Tuohy, the philanthropist, have made an impact on the people of northern Minnesota. They changed the character of Duluth. They enriched the experience of hundreds of thousands of people.
The story of this museum reaches back to the early 1920s, when entrepreneur George P. Tweed first began to collect art.
Tweed was born in Warsaw, Minnesota, in 1871. In 1888 the family moved to Duluth, where his father launched a career in the general mercantile business. Tweed worked as a reporter for the local newspaper after graduating from Duluth High School. He then entered into business, first in the field of foreign exchange and then in real estate and speculative loans. During the 1920s, George and his wife, Alice, became wealthy by working in mining, banking and finance. Tweed was one of the fortunate few who successfully weathered the stock market crash and Great Depression of the 1930s.
In the 1920s, like Minnesotans James J. Hill and Chester Congdon, Tweed first began to collect art. Tweed was passionate about the "big names" in French and American art. He didn't restrict his collection, however, and before his death in 1946, he had amassed an unbelievable range of work.
Mrs. Tweed often welcomed women's clubs to her mansion for teas and soirees. Visitors were enchanted with the Tweed's private art collection. Perhaps the delight of her visitors inspired Mrs. Tweed to make the collection accessible to the public. In 1950 Mrs. Tweed gradually began to turn the collection over to the Duluth branch of the University of Minnesota.
The collection. which continued to be located in the Tweed home in Duluth, opened to the public later that same year. Mrs. Tweed stipulated that the permanent home of the collection would always be in Duluth, but that works from the collection could be loaned to traveling exhibitions.
The university was permitted to add and replace certain works of art. One of the most important provisions specified that the gift always be linked to providing educational services to the people of Duluth and that the university use the collection to generate a serious research program in art history and museum practice.
In 1958, the Tweed Museum of Art found a new home. Mrs. Tweed, who became Mrs. Alice Tweed Tuohy, and her daughter, Bernice Brickson, generously funded the first construction phase of the Tweed Museum on the growing campus of the university. The museum came to the university as a central part of the Department of Art.
In 1969, under director William G. Boyce, the museum continued to augment its collections. Exhibitions flourished and the physical space increased. During Boyce's first 10 years on campus, the collection grew to include over 650 works by American and European artists. The permanent collection, student works and special exhibitions rotated in the gallery.
Since Alice Tweed Tuohy's death in 1973, the Tweed Tuohy Foundation has generously provided funds for innumerable improvements including the lecture gallery and program space. Assistance from the Tweed Tuohy Foundation has always been with the understanding that the foundation would provide funds for special projects related to the collections, and the university would provide staffing and matching funds.
Significant contributions have also come from other sources. A generous endowment by the Sax brothers in 1979 provided the Sax Purchase Fund. The Sax sculpture gallery was built in 1988 and dedicated to the memory of Milton, Simon and Jonathan Sax.
During the past decade, Tweed has entered a new era. Tweed director, Martin DeWitt said, "We want all facets of Minnesota's changing culture to be reflected in the events and exhibitions at the Tweed." New acquisitions, education and cultural exchanges now emphasize the Tweed's renewed mission to act as a cultural catalyst in the Upper Midwest.
The move towards an interdisciplinary learning laboratory began with one exhibit, "Amber Waves of Grain," a 1988 exhibit that was part of a contemporary issues series. Ceramic artist Barbara Donachy, with the help of some 70 volunteers, produced 34,000-piece clay replicas of the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal. These ceramic representations of Plutonium-239 and Uranium-235 spread across the floor of the museum brought discussion to Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota. The exhibit made the community examine the role of the artist in society and this controversial issue of contemporary culture.
At the Tweed Museum of Art, exhibition programming included activities that would encourage students and the public to confront cross-cultural issues. The "Signs and Symbols: African-American Quilts" exhibit was one example. Co-sponsored by the Duluth chapter of NAACP, the Tweed was able to expand its collaboration and foster an even more powerful and comprehensive learning experience.
Aggressively collecting contemporary artists also fit with its mission as a cultural catalyst. The additions to the collection represent the exhibitions over the years, as well as artists from the region and include pieces from the yearly Tweed Contemporary Artists Series. New acquisitions are considered in the light of their cross-cultural aspects. The changes in the campus cultural community bring an increased need for the work of artists of color.
One Duluth initiative has fit well with the Tweed's new mission -- the Duluth Sister City project. The Duluth Sister Cities of Växjö, Sweden, Thunder Bay, Canada and the island of Cuba have all held art exchanges with the Tweed. In 1998, an ambitious venture selected 20 area artists to travel to Sweden, and 20 Swedish artists to visit the shores of Lake Superior. All of the exchanges have brought cultural expression from around the world to Duluth and allowed international exposure for Duluth-area artists.
Tweed's staff education coordinator has put the education program on sound footing. Alison Aune, who just moved into a faculty position at UMD from her job as the Tweed education coordinator, said that the tradition of the Tweed Junior League docent program in the 1950s lives on. "We have volunteer docents who interpret the exhibitions for school-aged children. They also do a wonderful job of making the Tweed come to life for group tours," she said. Last fall, docents and student volunteers from the UMD Department of Education had an especially enjoyable task. They guided visitors through the first Tweed 50th Anniversary show, "Botanica: Contemporary Artists and the World of Plants."
The "Botanica" show was assembled by Tweed curator and registrar, Peter Spooner. It began its seven-city national tour in November.
Today the University of Minnesota Duluth enjoys an art collection that is almost unrivaled among communities and universities of comparable size. The Tweed Museum has seen steady increases in public attendance, which now averages between thirty-five and forty thousand annually. High attendance and the formation of a solid endowment are strengthening the museum as it enters the new century.
The Tweed Museum of Art remains challenged by the responsibility of the George P. Tweed Collection and the contemporary work. The personalities, the collections and the exhibitions at the Tweed remain a central presence in the region's community.
Through the Tweed Museum of Art the chronology of civilization itself comes to Duluth. The art reflects history and people through the ages, inviting scholarship and research. The Tweed's mission to educate all people regardless of age, background, color, race or gender quickens the cultural bloodstream of its community.
Our UMD student walked past more than the paintings George and Alice Tweed had hung in their home. The debate and dialogue swirled around her on the walls. She walked through a public square and she found a place that welcomed her.
-- Cheryl Reitan
LEFT: This painting, The Red Sweater by Charles W. Hawthorne was purchased by George P. Tweed in 1937 through his participation in an organization called the Grand Central Art Galleries, located in New York's Grand Central Station. Members of the group, included Louis C. Tiffany, Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt, George Eastman (founder of the Eastman Kodak Company), Edsel Ford and Helen C. Frick, the daughter of U.S. Steel founder, Henry Frick. Every member of the group contributed $600 annually for the purchase of art work and each year, each received one work from the collection.