Orland Rourke (left), James O'Rourke (right)
The Moorhead Federal Post Office during Construction, 1914
The Rourke Art Gallery + Museum has played a unique and valuable role in the cultural landscape of the Moorhead-Fargo area for almost 60 years. As a community art institution, it sustains our shared artistic and cultural heritage.
The Rourke Art Gallery was opened on 18 June 1960 by brothers James O'Rourke and Orland J. Rourke. Orland returned to his teaching career within the first year, while James continued to direct and operate what we know today as The Rourke Art Gallery + Museum through several venues and incarnations.
Throughout it's history, The Rourke has been dedicated to showcasing regional talent with artistic excellence serving as the primary consideration in programming. Our region’s most celebrated artists are regularly included in The Rourke's exhibition schedule with such familiar names as Charles Beck, Richard Bresnahan, DeborahMae Broad, Zhimin Guan, Charles Halling, Terence Larson, Duane Mickelson, Gordon Mortensen, Robert A. Nelson, Trygve Olson, Carl Oltvedt, George Pfeifer, Cyrus M. Running, Fritz Scholder, Charles Thysell, and Jack Youngquist.
In addition to functioning as one of the elite art sales venues in the upper Midwest, The Rourke is home to permanent collections which have grown to include over 5,000 works. The Permanent Collections of The Rourke Art Gallery + Museum run the gamut from important regional art and major 20th and 21st century artists and movements to artifacts representing diverse global cultural traditions dating back from over 1,000 years ago to the present day. Many of the works have been acquired over time through purchase and donation but the vast majority of our art holdings represent a lifetime's collecting on the part of The Rourke's late founding director, James Tiernan O'Rourke.
The Museum Building
The building that houses The Rourke was designed by architect Oscar Wenderoth 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 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.