Why I Miss The Terra Museum of American Art

Why I Miss The Terra Museum of American Art

When I was studying Art History in earnest at Wayne State University in Detroit,  I could walk the 2 blocks over to the Detroit Institute of Art and get lost in the many galleries and enormous square footage of the place. The overall size of the collection was, and still is, phenomenal.

When I traveled down to Chicago, as Michiganders often do, I always stopped at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was another massive art museum that I could spend hours in and still have so much left unseen. In fact, I enjoyed the infamous Impressionist exhibit there. Fabulous. I can still close my eyes and see the beautiful paintings, gathered from all over the world, all in one space.

The Terra Museum of American Art was always different. Their focus was much smaller, obviously, but the museum as a whole was profoundly more intimate. Starting with the location. Smack dab in the middle of all the downtown hustle and bustle of shopping the Magnificent Mile was a museum. The architecture and overall interior layout of the building was unique as well. It was like a giant spiral staircase, winding up and up through the decades of beauty that is American Art.

There were no large crowds, no need to wait to stand inches from a gorgeous Georgia O’Keefe or one of my personal favorites, William Merritt Chase. It was a quiet, relaxing break from the day. In fact, you could easily browse their entire collection on display in just an hour or two, which was perfect for those of us in town for only a day of shopping.  

Sadly, Terra Foundation decided to focus their interests elsewhere in 2004 and the museum is no more. You can, however, see their pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago or at various temporary exhibits across the country.