MIA Museum Shop

Emphasizing art over souvenirs, Minneapolis Institute of Arts rethinks its retail point of view.

MIA gift shop
Photos by Eliesa Johnson

Out with the T-shirts and trinkets. In with mixed metal jewelry, stunning sushi plates, and gorgeous glassware. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is revamping its museum shop with the goal of making it a destination boutique. It’s part of a bigger effort to improve the entire MIA lobby, including new food choices.

“We want a more friendly environment throughout,” says the MIA’s new chief retail strategist, Maria Hemsley, “so that people are not just coming to enjoy amazing works of art, but to enjoy the museum as a space—have a cup of coffee, a great meal, meet friends, and shop.”

It’s no accident that Hemsley’s background is in retail, not museums, and that’s true, too, of new store manager Ryan Ross, a former general manager for J.Crew. Together, they’re trying to reimagine the MIA store as an extension of the museum by featuring sophisticated artisan products with an emphasis on wood, ceramics, and glass. “We really want to parallel the art in the museum,” Hemsley says.

Instead of poster reprints for the Audacious Eye, an exhibit of Japanese art newly acquired by the MIA, the store brought in ceramics with a look similar to pieces in the exhibit. And for the Matisse exhibit in February, the MIA store will highlight glassware in primary colors inspired by the art. Prices throughout the store run the gamut, from $20 to $500.

It’s unfortunate that the new team didn’t have the budget to remake the store space itself. Even so, the change is obvious from the minute you enter—it’s been decluttered, and the tables are more stylishly merchandised. The children’s department has been pared down significantly. Stationery is also less of a focus. The book assortment remains expansive. Hemsley is working with consultants to identify interesting new lines and give a few nods to locals, like jewelry by Twin Cities designer Helen Wang. “We want to engage visitors,” Hemsley says. “Every piece will have a story behind it.”

For a museum store that has never been the destination that the Walker Shop is, it’s a smart direction. MIA is also looking for new ways to broaden its retail appeal, like partnering with Northern Grade, a pop-up market of American-made goods. Over the holidays, you’ll be able to buy men’s accessories, Clare Vivier bags, and surfboards across the hall from the MIA store. 2400 3rd Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-3000,

—A. K.