Restored to Grandeur
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Perched on the north end of the MCAD campus sits the historic and stately Julia Morrison Memorial Building.

More than a century old, it bears witness to the history of this vibrant art and design campus. The Morrison Auditorium, located in the heart of the building, underwent a much-needed renovation in 2018, enlivening the space to its earlier grandeur.

In September of 1915, Ethel Morrison Van Derlip and her brother, Dr. Angus Washburn Morrison, funded a building to be named in honor of their mother; the Julia Morrison Building was completed in 1916. At this time, the Morrison Auditorium was the largest space on campus and was used for a variety of purposes—not just as a drawing and painting studio.

In the late fifties/early sixties, the auditorium was equipped with modular temporary room dividers, serving as the school’s principal exhibition space. Image courtesy of the MCAD Library/Archives.
In the late fifties/early sixties, the auditorium was equipped with modular temporary room dividers, serving as the school’s principal exhibition space. Image courtesy of the MCAD Library/Archives.

MCAD Librarian and Historian Allan Kohl reports that the auditorium served as the primary location for social events such as dances and parties, the school's main exhibition space before the construction of the MCAD Gallery in the Main Building, and a venue for lectures, performances, and the showing of motion pictures. According to Kohl’s research, at one time in the midwinter, it was a recreational space—there was even a basketball backboard and hoop mounted on the south wall!

A 1927 daytime student dance was held in the auditorium. Image courtesy of the MCAD Library/Archives.
A 1927 daytime student dance was held in the auditorium. Image courtesy of the MCAD Library/Archives.

Over time, the stately auditorium fell into disrepair and was not as inviting as it once had been. Members of the Morrison family graciously stepped forward to provide the underwriting for a reimagined campus gathering space. The renovation of the auditorium, completed in the fall of 2018, included the refurbishing of the windows, stage, and doors, the latter of which received a gold-leaf treatment that restored them to their stately presence.

Dan Madsen of Dusty Signs applies gold leaf to the refinished entry doors using a reverse glass water gilding process. Photo by Rita Kovtun.
Dan Madsen of Dusty Signs applies gold leaf to the refinished entry doors using a reverse glass water gilding process. Photo by Rita Kovtun.
 

 

This story originally appears in NEXT, the magazine of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Want to receive the next issue in your mailbox? Join the NEXT mailing list.