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The Muskegon Museum of Art's popular Postcard Salon returns in More...
Special events for all ages take place as part of the MMA's Fe More...
The Muskegon Museum of Art's 10th Festival of Trees opens More...
Thursday, November 20
Tuesday, November 25
Wednesday, November 26
Mission Statement: The Muskegon Museum of Art, founded on a tradition of aesthetic excellence, is committed to fostering the life-long study and appreciation of the visual arts by strengthening, preserving, and exhibiting its collections; offering a wide range of traditional and contemporary exhibitions; stimulating learning and creativity through diverse public and educational programming; and enhancing community involvement and support in a safe, accessible, and welcoming environment.
Muskegon was a prosperous and booming town during the 1870s and 80s. The “Lumber Queen of the World,” as Muskegon was known, produced much of the lumber for a growing nation. Nearly 50 sawmills circled Muskegon Lake at the peak of the lumbering era and over 40 millionaires, those who had made their fortunes in lumber called Muskegon their home. However, once the boom times came to an end, many of the barons moved away, taking their fortunes with them.
Fortunate for Muskegon, among the few who stayed was Charles H. Hackley. Hackley and other local leaders were determined to save Muskegon after the sawmills closed by making this town “one of the most distinctive cities of its size in the country.” In the next eleven years, Hackley invested a good part of his fortune towards meeting that goal.
Hackley was convinced that emphasis on such public projects as progressive new schools, a library and a hospital would attract new growth. The idea of building an art museum for Muskegon was always high on Hackley’s list of priorities. However, other projects, felt to be more pressing, came first, such as Hackley Public Library, his first gift to the community. This was followed by gifts of a city park, a manual training school, a gymnasium and athletic field for the Public Schools of Muskegon, and a hospital.
Hackley died in 1905 before realizing his dream of an art gallery. However, Hackley left to the Muskegon Public Schools Board of Education, through a bequest in his will, an expendable trust of $150,000, held to this day by the Board of Education of Muskegon Public Schools. This fund, now known as the Hackley Picture Fund, was to be used to purchase “pictures of the best kind”. It is the only money bequeathed or otherwise given by Hackley for anything related to the fine arts.
By 1910, having begun with Hackley Picture Fund the acquisition of some of the most treasured and valuable works of art still in the Museum’s present day collection, the Board of Education wisely determined that a museum-quality facility should be built. They then proceeded to purchase the lots next to Hackley Public Library and began construction of a facility for their growing and important art collection. Upon completion, the Board of Education chose to honor the inspiration for the project, which, of course, was Charles Hackley, and named their newest building the Hackley Art Gallery.
The construction of the museum culminated with an elaborate dedication ceremony on June 21, 1912. The Hackley Art Museum was international news. Press in New York, Boston, Chicago and London wrote about the founding of this museum.
The museum’s first director, Raymond Wyer, was a man of unique foresight. Early art acquisitions selected by Wyer included the very best world-class artists. The most notorious of Wyer’s acquisitions was a painting by James M. Whistler, Study in Rose and Brown, purchased for $6,750. It was thought by some to be scandalous to pay that kind of money for “ a picture that is hard to see”. In fact, the furor over this purchase was the cause of Raymond Wyer’s resignation in protest in July 1916. Today, Study in Rose and Brown is one of the true treasures in the collection.
Lulu Miller, the Hackley Librarian, was appointed to serve also as Museum Director in 1916. Again, the Hackley Art Gallery was a national trend leader with the leadership of only the second woman in the U.S. to be appointed as an art museum director. Lulu Miller served in the joint capacity of museum and library director until 1930 and made some very astute acquisitions for the collection, including the Edward S. Curtis portfolio and the Winslow Homer painting Answering the Horn.
In 1930, Frank Almy, a graduate of Harvard Fine Arts Course, was the MMA’s next director. He energetically set out to “sell the Hackley Gallery to the people of Muskegon.” However, the Chronicle commented, “Whether or not the long indifference of the people of this city to the treasure they have in this gallery can be overcome, we do not know...”
Almy tirelessly lectured, created exhibits and made astounding acquisitions of art for the collection including Edward Hopper’s NEW YORK RESTAURANT (the only Hopper painting in the state of Michigan) and the sensational John Steuart Curry’s TORNADO OVER KANSAS. Another of Almy’s important acquisitions was Joos Van Cleve’s ST JEROME IN PENITENCE, painted in 1516.
The museum continued to undergo many changes and Hackley wasn’t its only benefactor. L.C. Walker, well-known Muskegon business leader and philanthropist, along with his wife Margaret, were instrumental in building the museum’s outstanding graphics collection. Indeed, in every decade since 1940, the Walker family, continuing with Shaw and Betty Walker, have given significant works of art to the MMA.
In 1979, ground was broken for a $1.6 million addition to the Hackley Art Gallery, also funded by the L.C. & Margaret Walker Foundation. Construction was completed in 1980 and with that, the Hackley Art Gallery changed its name to the Muskegon Museum of Art with the Hackley Galleries and the Walker Galleries.
The Muskegon Museum of Art Foundation Board of Trustees was established in 1983, at the conclusion of a successful drive to raise $1,000,000, led by another community philanthropist, Robert Tuttle, which established the first MMA Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. The MMA Foundation Board of Trustees is a board mutually appointed by the Board of Education and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and exists to provide oversite for the Museum, raise funds, and advise the Board of Education on all matters related to the Museum.
But the museum is so much more than fine art and Boards. Our Permanent collection is the envy of many of our colleagues in the art world, our changing exhibition schedule is rich with opportunities for our community to experience art and artists from around the world, and our school outreach and tour program reaches over 5,000 area students annually.
The Muskegon Public Schools Board of Education, in partnership with the MMA Foundation Board of Trustees, is proudly committed to maintaining the Muskegon Museum of Art as part of its family of public institutions. The Board understands deeply that the Museum plays a critical role in sustaining the vitality of the Muskegon community and the West Michigan region. They also believe that it is their responsibility to ensure that the Museum and its treasures remain a part of the public trust that was created almost a century ago between the Muskegon Public Schools Board of Education and the citizens they serve. For a look into the MMA's future, click here to view our Strategic Plan, 2009-2012, updated September 2013.
The Muskegon Museum of Art is accredited by the Amercan Association of Museums.
Muskegon Museum of Art Foundation Board of Trustees