A unique museum with plans to grow

The Museum of Russian Art aims to increase its presence

WINDOM — The Museum of Russian Art is kind of an oddball presence in the Minneapolis arts scene, a Natasha in the land of Sven and Ole.

The recent doubling of its executive staff is a sign that the museum plans to capitalize on its uniqueness and grow its presence not just in the region, but also in the art world at large.

President and Director Judi Dutcher said its current exhibition of photographs from the era of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, has garnered interest from museums as far away as Spain. Until recently, though, the museum lacked the resources to share its artworks easily with other institutions.

“With basically one-and-a-half people running the place, there’s no way you could conceive of traveling these shows,” Dutcher said.

This spring, The Museum of Russian Art Board of Trustees named a new director of operations, Lana Gendlin Brooks, and a new curator, Maria Zavialova. Misha Dashevsky, the new assistant to Dutcher, brings the executive staff to six from three.

Dutcher said the nonprofit museum, founded in 2002 by art dealer Raymond E. Johnson, planned to expand its educational offerings and regional outreach efforts in coming years. The additional staff also may pave the way for more ambitious exhibitions and the participation of guest curators.

For her part, Dutcher said she would now have more time to focus on fundraising to support the museum’s ambitious plans.

Gendlin Brooks, who grew up in the Minneapolis area but most recently worked at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., said the museum was on the cusp of a transformation.

“I see so much opportunity for growth here, and development,” Gendlin Brooks said. “… The museum has a lot of potential to become something bigger than it is now.”

Dutcher said The Museum of Russian Art was the only museum in North America dedicated to Russian art and artifacts, making it an art-world ambassador.

“To be focused as a museum is a luxury and allows us to do what we do really well,” she said.