Sedalia's Daum Museum of Contemporary Art
has caught the art world's attention
visitor to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia walks through
one of a dozen gallery spaces at the museum which opened on the campus
of State Fair Community College in January.
Visitors are coming to Missouri
from all over the United States, and even the world, to see for themselves
what The New York Times is calling a remarkable concentration
of museums. And in Sedalia sits the newest and most surprising museum
of them all, the Daum Museum of Contemporary
Its like a pilgrimage,
says Douglass Freed, director of the Daum which sits on the small campus
of State Fair Community College. Weve had numerous people
tell us theyve either flown in to St. Louis or Kansas City from
the East Coast and rented a car and driven across the state to stop here
Freed describes some of the
more than 20,000 people who have visited the Daum Museum since it opened
in January. Many are art patrons more accustomed to visiting well-known
museums in the art capital of the world, New York City, who are trekking
to Missouri to see what all the fuss is about.
In April an article in the
Times declared the existence of an art boom in the Heartland. The
article talked about the growth of important contemporary art museums
in St. Louis, Kansas City and, yes, Sedalia.
If some people on the
East and West coasts still think they have a greater intrinsic interest
in vanguard art than their brethren in the Midwest, the flowering of these
museums suggests they my be mistaken, wrote Stephen Kinzer for the
terra cotta sculpture, Grin & Bear It, by Lisa Tully
Dibble shows the often humerous approach artists take with their work.
Even beyond The New York
Times, the Daum is also receiving world acclaim. The
museum has been written about in art journals in Europe and Australia
and a writer and photographer from Bejing, China, even visited Sedalia
to write about the Daum.
The Daum is also listed, among
only a handful of other Missouri museums, in the National Gallery Guide.
And its the only Missouri listing outside St. Louis or Kansas City.
You have to be an important
art venue to be listed in the Guide, says Freed. This is like
the gallery bible of the United States. Its thrilling to me to look
in that and see Sedalia, Missouri.
All the attention the Daum
receives is no surprise to Freed who has know for many years that a great
art collection existed in Sedalia and only needed an exhibition space
to show it. And thanks to Dr. Harold Daum the collection and gallery space
finally came together this year.
Freed, a native of western
Kansas, came to Sedalia 34 years ago to start the art department at State
Fair Community College. He and his wife moved into a duplex next door
to Daum, a Sedalia radiologist, and the couple became friends with the
quiet, unassuming doctor.
Freed, a painter and sculptor,
built a studio in the basement of the duplex and Daum took an interest
in the young painters work. Freed and Daum shared a love of modern
art and Freed often advised his neighbor on buying art. The two began
traveling the Midwest and to New York City in the early 1970s to meet
artists and visit galleries.
We had a shared aesthetic.
My work at the time was very abstract and he was very interested in cutting
edge stuff. Almost all of his money went into his passion for collecting.
In 1974 he bought a Helen Frankenthaler painting for $16,000. That was
a lot of money to spend for a painting at the time.
After building a large home
outside Sedalia on 400 acres, Daum added a 3,000-square-foot addition
to display some of his growing art collection. Freed says his entire home
became exhibition space.
Freed, who came to the college 34 years ago to head the art department,
is now the director and curator of the Daum.
About six years ago Daum, in
his 70s and retired, approached Freed and said he wanted to donate his
collection to the community college. Freed was immediately struck by the
enormity of the offer.
I said, Well, Hal,
thats fine and dandy but what are we going to do with it?
The two thought at first of
putting it in storage and bringing out individual works for students to
study, but Freed decided the collection was too important to be put into
storage. Freed suggested building a museum.
In two years Freed managed
to raise $500,000 for the project, which fell far short of the amount
needed. Thats when Daum agreed to donate $2.5 million and offered
a $500,000 challenge grant to State Fair Community College to set up an
endowment for acquisitions.
In the end Freed says the Sedalia
community donated nearly $800,000 to build the museum, including what
the college put into the project. The Daum Museum also received $500,000
as one of the original Missouri Cultural Trust grant recipients through
the Missouri Arts Council. Construction of the Daum began in September
We were now ready to
establish ourselves as a major venue for contemporary art in the United
ceramic scuplture Reflection of the Flame by John Balistreri
leads visitors to the Daum Museum and the art department of State
Fair Community College.
That meant building 20,000
square feet of exhibition space in 12 galleries and an additional 6,000
square feet of art storage space.
We have more exhibition
space than the Chicago Contemporary Art Museum. And if you take in the
museum and the art department and theater and the seven art department
studios and offices, were probably one of the largest art complexes
in the state of Missouri.
And all that art and architecture
sits quietly in the middle of the community college campus just a stones
throw from the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
The thing thats
really exciting to me is that this cutting edge venue is in this rural
area of only 20,000 people, says Freed.
And the astonishing thing is
visitors to the museum so far this year have far exceeded Freeds
early estimates of attendance. Freed says he wrote a grant proposal last
year for museum funding and in it estimated 6,000 people would visit the
Daum in its first year. The 20,000 who have actually walked through the
doors has astounded Freed.
Freed says he is excited to
have a chance to expose rural Missourians to contemporary art which he
defines as work created in the last 30 years. The Daums permanent
collection includes paintings, prints, sculpture and installation art,
or pieces created by the artist to fit a particular gallery space.
Hackman, left, editor of Review, a Kansas City visual arts
publication, interviews Maria Jose de la Macorra, an artist
from Mexico City, about her work being installed at the Daum Museum
for an upcoming exhibition. Jose de la Macorra was an artist-in-residence
for seven weeks at the museum where she worked to prepare pieces for
On Sept. 28 the Daum opened
an exhibit of seven installation artists who have created pieces from
a room full of 25 plexiglass tables pulsating with light to the world
premiere of a work by a video artist who uses multiple projectors to create
three-dimensional video images.
Contemporary art, often abstract
and which can challenge the viewer, should be shown in rural America,
If we get 2,000 Sedalians
to pass through this museum, thats one tenth of our town. Its
absolutely thrilling to me to be able to show the people of rural Missouri
this art in this beautiful space.
Freed also takes as a mission
exhibiting the many established regional artists who may not receive much
attention from East Coast and West Coast art galleries and museums. Many
of the artists being shown at the Daum are from Missourian or surrounding
If all the Daums attention
is any indication, artists who land a show at the museum will no doubt
receive a boost to their careers.
For more information about the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art visit
www.daummuseum.org or call (660)
530-5888. The museum is located on the campus of State Fair Community
College at 3201 W. 16th Street and is open daily except Mondays.