10 Art Museums to Visit in the Midwest


Occupying the northern central part of the United States, the Midwest region has a thriving arts scene that extends across all of its 12 states. Taking inspiration from its unique culture, industrial heritage and natural landscapes, a number of distinguished artists have depicted the region over the years, and their many of their works still reside here today in museums, galleries and public art spaces.

The Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis (Photo: kkmarais via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

There are few parts of the US better blessed with art museums than the Midwest. Indeed, whatever type of artistic genre or era you’re interested in, you’ll find a museum that covers it extensively. So if you’re planning a trip to the Midwest and would like to take in some of its art museums during your stay, we’ve taken stock and picked out 10 of the best.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Spread across two buildings – one old, one new – the Cleveland Museum of Art features outstanding permanent collections of art from all periods and parts of the world, as well as a regularly-changing roster of temporary exhibitions exploring artistic genres, subjects and themes. Beyond the art on display, both buildings are connected via a visually-striking atrium and there’s also a charming on-site café.

LOCATION Cleveland, Ohio HOURS Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon

(Photo: Erik Drost via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Flint Institute of Arts

Michigan’s second largest art museum, the Flint Institute of Arts draws more than 160,000 visitors every year thanks to its hugely diverse roster of exhibitions, events, and community programs. Featuring a 8,500-strong collection of art and artefacts spanning the globe, the institute has gained particular attention for its depth of important European and American paintings and sculptures from the 15th century to the present day, as well as its decorative art and applied art that includes ethnographic study collections going back five millennia. The venue are stages educational lectures and community dialogues, workshops and studio demonstrations for all age groups.

LOCATION Flint, Michigan HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm

Weisman Art Museum

With a mish-mash of stainless steel making up its eye-catching exterior façade, the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum is truly a sight to behold. But the awe of all those who visit certainly doesn’t end at the entrance. Funded by noted California philanthropist and art patron Frederick R. Weisman, the museum is home to a superb collection of works by pre-eminent 20th century American artists including Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley, as well as a diverse selection of contemporary art, plus eclectic items ranging from ceramics and textiles to Korean furniture.

LOCATION Minneapolis, Minnesota HOURS Tues-Fri 10am-5pm Weds 10am-8pm Sat-Sun 11am-5pm Closed Mon

(Photo: Photo courtesy of the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota Twin Cities.)

Detroit Institute of Arts

With over 100 galleries across its 658,000 square feet, Detroit Institute of Arts houses one of the biggest and most significant art collections anywhere in the US and is a beacon of culture for the Detroit area. Housed in an impressive Beaux-Arts building, the museum chronicles the evolution of human creativity from prehistory through the 21st century across the world. Among the most notable artworks on display are Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting to enter a US museum collection.

LOCATION Detroit, Michigan HOURS Weds-Fri 9am-4pm Sat-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Tues

(Photo: Gregory Varnum via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Comprising seven curatorial areas – Arts of Africa & the Americas; Contemporary Art; Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture; Asian Art; Paintings; Photography and New Media; and Prints and Drawings – The Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of the region’s most distinguished cultural institutions. In total there are more than 90,000 works to be found here, representing about 20,000 years of world history with a strong focus on the diversity of cultures. The museum also runs classes for children and adults and an award-winning interactive media program.

LOCATION Minneapolis, Minnesota HOURS Thurs-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Weds

Milwaukee Art Museum

With more than 125 years of collecting art under its belt, Milwaukee Art Museum is an arts venue of major regional importance. Almost half-a-million visitors come here each year to enjoy the 30,000 works of art spread across four floors of over forty galleries. Among them are 15th- to 20th-century European and 17th- to 20th-century American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, decorative arts, photographs, and folk and self-taught art. Central to the museum’s mission is also its role as an educational resource, with programs featuring classes, tours, and a busy calendar of events for all ages.

LOCATION Milwaukee, Wisconsin HOURS Tues-Weds & Fri-Sun 10am-5pm Thurs 10am-8pm Closed Mon

(Photo: David Hilowitz via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Walker Art Center

Attracting more than 700,000 visitors per year together with the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, The Walker Art Center ranks among the nation’s most-visited modern art museums. Housed in a strikingly geometrical brick-clad building, the centre focusses on the visual, performing, and media arts of our time, taking a multidisciplinary and innovative approach in the way it presents its collections. As well as the art on display, the venue also hosts frequent performing arts events, educational programs, and art workshops.

LOCATION Minneapolis, Minnesota HOURS Thurs 11am-9pm Fri-Sat 11am-6pm Sun 11am-5pm Closed Mon-Weds

Toledo Museum of Art

Self-described as a cornerstone of the cultural community, the Toledo Museum of Art is an internationally renowned museum thanks to its fabulous collection of Old Master paintings, decorative arts and glass. As well as its 30,000-plus objects on display, the museum has also earned a global reputation for its innovative and extensive education programs designed to engage people with visual culture and the formal language of art, iconology, ideology, semiotics and hermeneutics.

LOCATION Toledo, Ohio HOURS Weds-Thurs & Sun-Mon 11am-5pm Fri-Sat 11am-8pm Closed Tues

Midwest Museum of American Art

Set in a beautifully renovated neo-classical style bank building, the not-for-profit Midwest Museum of American Art features American works from the 19th through to the 21st century. Stand-out exhibits include a vast collection of hand-signed lithographs by the famous American illustrator Norman Rockwell. In total, the museum’s permanent collection numbers over 6,000 works with approximately 900 on display at any single time.

LOCATION Elkhart, Indiana HOURS Tues-Fri 10am-4pm Closed Mon Sat-Sun 1pm-4pm

(Photo: Paul Sableman via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Nelson-Atkins Museum Of Art

Recognised globally for its outstanding collection of more than 33,500 objects dating from ancient times to the present day, this expansive museum offers culture vultures the chance to explore civilization through the eyes of painters, sculptures, craftsmen, and many other artists who have plied their creative trades down the ages. Each year the museum welcomes some half-a-million visitors and is free to enter.

LOCATIONS Kansas City, Missouri HOURS Fri & Mon 11am-5pm Sat-Sun 10am-5pm Thurs 11am-9pm Closed Tues-Weds

By Paul Joseph