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New Museum of American Art Opens in Chicago

April 21, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ The $75 million Terra Museum of American Art officially opened Tuesday and was praised by its founder as on ″the cutting edge″ of a new surge of interest in American art.

″Ten years ago, interest in American art was minimal. Now it is flourishing,″ said Daniel J. Terra, 75, a wealthy Illinois Republican who has served as U.S. ambassador-at-large for cultural affairs since 1981.

A crowd of about 300 and 110-piece high school band were on hand as Gov. James R. Thompson, Mayor Harold Washington, former Interior Secretary William P. Clark and Barbara Bush, the wife of the vice president, cut a red, white and blue ribbon at the door of the museum on posh North Michigan Avenue.

The museum is ″a great gift to enrich the city and the nation,″ Mrs. Bush said. ″The beauty of the collection and the museum building surpasses any expectations I had.″

Terra’s 800-piece collection, insured for more than $100 million, is best known for American impressionists from the early 20th century, including Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, James Whistler, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase and Maurice Prendergast.

The museum will operate a program in which art historians from across the country will teach graduate courses to high school teachers, who can pass on the knowledge to their students, Terra said.

″This recognition of the importance, vitality and dynamism of American art has placed the new Terra museum at the cutting edge of a tremendous surge of interest in American art in the nation,″ he said.

Thompson said Terra, a longtime friend, has been seen carrying a new find in a paper bag during his search for paintings.

″I married a lady 50 years ago who was an art historian, and I’ve been in trouble ever since,″ Terra joked.

The first exhibit at the Terra features 60 works of Early American masterpieces from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and 90 pieces from Terra’s collection.

Four black-tie galas and other events are being held during a 40-day fund- raising campaign.

Most of the initial costs for the museum were covered by Terra and his son, James. Plans call for expansion into adjacent buildings, and construction of additional facilities, including a 700-seat concert hall, is to begin in 1989.

Terra, a son of Italian immigrants, advises the president on cultural policies and serves as a laision between American and international cultural groups.

His original, smaller museum, which opened in 1980 in suburban Evanston, will serve as a branch of the downtown facility.

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