University of Montana News

Oct 3, 2012 6:22 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News

UM redoubling efforts to find home for 11,000 art pieces

MISSOULA - Walk into the Paxson Gallery today and you'll come face to face with amazing paintings and prints created by realist masters like Renoir and Monet, and the tools they used-- just a small part of the extensive UM collection amassed through donations and purchase since the 1890s.

The University of Montana's Museum of Art and Culture continues to burst at the seams, now encompassing thousands of objects collected for 118 years, many of which haven't seen the light of day in years.

Recent plans for a permanent home to care for and display this fine art haven't panned out, although the museum is still actively searching for solutions.

Montana Museum of Art and Culture Director Barbara Koostra said the collection records civilization in Montana and the globe, courtesy of people who traveled the world and brought their treasures to UM.

While regular art shows use the two small galleries off the lobby of UM's PARTV building, it's only possible to show half of 1 percent of the 11,000 items. Koostra calls it the largest fine art collection between Minneapolis and Seattle, and thinks creating a home for it would be a draw for the millions of tourists who come through Montana every year.

"We could capture more of that audience in a meaningful way, and a way that tells Montana's story," Koostra said.

Three years ago, a proposal to move into to the Missoula Mercantile Building didn't work. That hasn't stopped the dream of developing a permanent place to display, and care for the collection, which includes works that are windows into the past.

"It does allude to the history," Koostra said. "The social milieu of the time, the political fabric of the day, the fashion of the day. Their idea of the cartoonary in a certain way, although this is definitely considered fine art. It's got so many layers from which
to learn."

As the collection grows, pressure for a solution does too. Discussions about future plans are very active now. Koostra remains hopeful more attention will help uncover a way to solve the century-old dilemma.

Koostra will talk about the collection when she speaks to the City Club in Missoula Oct. 8 with a presentation called "Hidden Treasure in the Treasure State."

Click here for information on her City Club talk.

Photo: courtesy of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

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