MIA rebrands as Mia ("mee-ah")

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“Mia is mine!"

So says the chipper new statement that was distributed to friends and supporters of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this week.

Concerned that the acronym “MIA” has negative connotations (such as Missing In Action), the venerable art museum has partnered with the global design firm Pentagram to craft a new brand identity for itself. In a move that seems calculated to appeal to the selfie generation, the museum will now be known as “Mia” (pronounced “Mee-ah”), a word that we're told, via the announcement, “has positive meanings in cultures all over the world: mine, my own, beloved.”

News of the name change has been met with the same sort of befuddled head-scratching as last year’s announcement that Hello Kitty is not a cat.

After 100 years of welcoming visitors to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Mia has also decided to remove the “s” from its longer (more formal) name. Henceforth, the museum will be known as the “Minneapolis Institute of Art” (singular). While the MIA/Mia was originally envisioned as a regional center for the performing arts (in addition to being an art gallery), this never really came to pass. Since 1929, the Institute has been focused almost exclusively on visual art. According to the museum, “dropping the ‘s’ in Arts simply resolves a bit of history.”

Rebranding can be a tricky business. If an organization strays too far from its roots, it runs the risk of alienating its existing customer base. Dayton-Hudson may have succeeded in reinventing itself as Target Corporation, but other companies and institutions haven't faired as well.

Whatever negative associations there may have been with the letters “M-I-A,” it doesn’t seem to have deterred people from coming to the museum. Last year, the Minneapolis Institute of Art received over 750,000 visitors, a record number.

Which might explain why the sudden name change took Twin Cities residents by surprise. Reactions from the local arts community have been mixed, ranging from mild confusion (Mia?) to outright anger over what one online commenter described as “hack consultant[s]” ruining a beloved institution.

While not wanting to criticize another arts organization, “Minneapolis is proud of its heritage of destroying its own history,” a member of the local arts community told City Pages.

Given time, local residents may come to embrace the new name (or the new pronunciation), the same way that they eventually learned to love the gleaming metal façade of the Weisman Art Museum. Only time will tell.


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