The Rourke Art Museum has played a unique and valuable role in the cultural landscape of the Moorhead-Fargo area for more than 50 years. As a community art institution, it sustains our shared artistic and cultural heritage.
The Rourke was founded as an art gallery in June 1960 by James O'Rourke. The space was dedicated to showcasing regional talent, with artistic excellence a primary consideration in programming. Many of the region’s most celebrated artists have been represented in its exhibits: Charles Beck, Charles Thysell, Deborah Mae Broad, Jack Youngquist, Carl Oltvedt and George Pfeiffer.
In 1996, the organization expanded to incorporate its current space in the former Moorhead post office building on Main Avenue in Moorhead. The move allowed the organization to extend its roster of exhibiting artists to include those with deep connections to the region but a more national/international profile, such as Fritz Scholder and Robert A. Nelson. The Museum also housed a growing permanent collection.
The Museum's permanent collection now emcompasses approximately 4,000 works. It includes a significant regional art collection, important 20th century artists and art movements, and global collections.
The Museum Building
The building that houses the Rourke Art Museum was designed by federal architect Oscar Wenteroth as the Moorhead Federal Post Office. Construction began in 1913. The building opened to the public in 1915, serving as the Post Office until 1960, when it became the Moorhead City Office Building. Since 1966, it has served as a center for the visual arts, housing the Red River Art Center, the Plains Art Museum and now the Rourke Art Gallery Museum.
The beautiful neoclassical building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It retains many of its lovely original architectural details, including the exterior front columned portico and an impressive interior marble staircase. The sole remaining "grand" building in downtown Moorhead from its early history, it was restored using funds from the City of Moorhead, owner of the building; the Minnesota State Historical Society; and citizens, as members of the Giotto Fellowship.