The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) has a new leader with a little Russian history of his own.
Mark Meister, a third-generation Russian American, started as the new director of the Windom museum on July 1.
“The museum provides a unique opportunity for people to experience Russian art and culture in this region,” Meister said. “It’s an unusual museum — there’s none other like it in the country.”
Russian art, something Meister says is often the “missing piece” of many museums, is put on center stage at TMORA. Not only are paintings and other artworks on constant display, but the museum also puts on exhibits and events featuring Russian music, dance, writing and culture. Traditional items of dress from western and central Ukraine are currently shown in the lower gallery.
“When you go to the encyclopedic museum, you’ll walk through Italian, Dutch, German galleries. You’re never going to walk through a Russian gallery,” Meister said. “It’s been completely overlooked.”
Meister’s connection to the museum goes beyond his new job. All four of his grandparents emigrated from Russia before World War I — making the museum even more personal to him.
“It adds another element to [my position],” Meister said. “I’m thinking more about the parts of Russia that my grandparents came from and perhaps visiting for the first time.”
One of Meister’s biggest goals is to gain accreditation for the museum through the American Alliance of Museums. This would recognize TMORA for adhering to best museum standards and operating at the highest level of the museum profession. He also hopes to increase the number of visitors, members and programs at the museum.
“We’re already making a cultural impact, and I know we can grow even more,” Meister said.
This new position is bringing Meister full circle in the Minneapolis museum circuit. He got his first museum job at The Minneapolis Institute of Art — where he met his wife — after graduating with a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Minnesota in 1976.
“I’m very excited to be coming back,” Meister said. “I’m very enthused and excited by the museum. It has such a dedicated staff.”
Meister worked most recently as the executive director of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation (DLPP) in Dayton, Ohio, a non-profit foundation established to advance international peace through literature.
Christine Podas-Larson, chair of the board of trustees, said TMORA is “lucky” to have Meister join. Its previous executive director, Vladimir von Tsurikov, departed in August 2018, and staff have been operating without an executive director for the past
“[Meister’s] in-depth knowledge of and experience in museums made him stand out,” Podas-Larson said.
TMORA opened in 2002 and features exhibits that explore the history, art and culture of Russia going back to the medieval period. The museum is located at 5500 Stevens Ave. S.