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Passport to the River Valley: Minnesota Marine Art Museum

Posted at: 08/15/2011 12:56 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The Minnesota Marine Art Museum just turned five years old last month. It's tag line: Great Art Inspired by Water.

"In this gallery for example are images of the Mississippi River, which is straight out our window," says Jon Swanson, Museum Curator.

But it seems, at times, as if the museum is something of a well kept secret.

"I would say most people probably don't know what we have," says Andy Maus, Executive Director.

And what it does have is literally jaw dropping.

Inside a specially built room, which is always 66 degrees and kept at a constant humidity, you'll find works from the masters. The list includes Monet, Renoir and Picasso.

But the most historically significant piece may be a small Van Gogh.

"The Van Gogh is what we believe to be Van Gogh's first oil painting that was independently painted," says Maus.

All of the paintings, including the Van Gogh, are sitting in Winona, Minnesota. However, there is something slightly uncomfortable about being so close to these priceless works of art. And that's the fact that you're allowed to be so close to these priceless works of art.

Still, the museum's curator says it's the security precautions we don't see that allow him to sleep at night.

"This entire building is purposefully built to give the best possible environment and security for what you're seeing here," says Swanson. "That room is essentially a vault. So I sleep well."

Most of the artwork at the Museum is on long-term loan.

You can get more information about the Maritime Art Museum in Winona at: http://www.minnesotamarineart.org/