Numerous lakes and rivers contribute to the La Crosse area's long-standing passion for water, and for 10 years, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) in Winona has been showcasing priceless works of art that pay tribute to that passion.
"We get a lot of tourists actually, from all across the country, a good amount from Minnesota," MMAM's Executive Director Nicole Chamberlain-Dupree said. "They kind of follow the river in one way of another and they get here and they realize their connection to the river, their connection to water is not just them, and it's not new. It's historic. It's traditional."
Everything in the museum is related to water in some way, but how the museum works with that is constantly changing and evolving. Even in a city of just over 27,000 residents, the Winona museum doesn't fail to bring in famous artists from Monet to Picasso, and even the very first oil-painting from Vincent van Gogh.
"You're going to see examples of artwork that you would have to go to Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, to see some of the names of the better known artists here," Jon Swanson, Curator of Collections and Exhibits said. But it's not just the names, but it's the quality of those artists, some of their very best work that we have here in a very small community. "
There is one-of-a-kind art lining the walls that command attention, but the crown jewel is a piece that hung in the White House from the presidencies of Ronald Reagan up until Barack Obama. Now, it calls Winona home.
"Washington Crossing the Delaware is known by every school child who has taken a history class, or any type of civics or government class. It is the classic representation of the American Revolution," Swanson said.
Although the painting and many others have a permanent home at the museum, exhibitions come and go every 10 to 12 weeks. Going on now until December, the MMAM is immersing people in the history of the American tattoo tradition. A subject more popular now, than ever before.
"Whether they knew it or not, these artists collectively created a new American art form, the American sailors tattoo. Second, this isn't just self expression or fashion. These tattoos have very deep meaning. You had to earn the right to wear very specific tattoos. Through personal accomplishments or your beliefs, battles that you fought in or ports that you traveled to. You've earned the rights to wear these tattoos permanently," added Swanson.
The MMAM brings in different varieties of visitors, but is able to cater to all interests through their art, exhibits and scenery. Something Chamberlain-Dupree says needs to be shared and experienced.
"They get this incredible museum, with this collection that is just outstanding. These works are, I mean you would have to go across the nation to see what is housed right here in Winona. So It's this wonderful little surprise, and a little secret that doesn't need to be a secret anymore. Come on down to Winona. Come to the museum."
For another adventure make sure to check back next Wednesday for a new episode of Hometown Tourist, and a chance to make the La Crosse area your own.