In 1936, The Mint Museum opened as North Carolina's first art museum although it had no collection. A year later, four paintings comprised its arts holdings. Over the next two decades, the collection grew slowly and was entirely dependent on local donations.
In 1956, the Mint Museum Auxiliary was founded by Mrs. H.T. Cosby and a group of interested friends to provide financial support to and broaden public support of The Mint Museum. The first major project sponsored by the Auxiliary was the Home Tour, which had been started by Mrs. Harold C. Dwelle as a benefit for the museum in 1953. With the founding of the Auxiliary, a long roster of members has since contributed thousands of volunteer hours to generate funds to support The Mint Museum through educational offerings and acquisitions for the museum's permanent collection.
In addition to the Home Tour (now known as the Room to Bloom Celebration), the Auxiliary has supported various fundraisers which have included the Mint Museum Shop (1957-1998), the Mint Museum Antiques Show (1967-2004), the Mint to Be Yours Tag Sale (2007-2010) and the Fall EnrichMINT Forum started in 2011. The Room to Bloom Celebration, the Auxiliary's largest annual fundraiser, had its 63rd Anniversary in 2016.
Of the 38,000 items in The Mint Museum's collection, the Auxiliary has donated over 3,800. These works of art touch every department of the museum: American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas, Craft+Design, Decorative Arts, European Art, Fashion, and Modern & Contemporary Art.
The rich journey began in 1960 with the Auxiliary's first acquisition, In the Glen, by American painter Frederick Richard Lee. Other highlights from the 1960s include works by the English painter Frederick Richard Lee and American painters William McDougal Hart and William Samuel Horton.
In the 1970s, the collection continued to grow with several significant acquisitions. The Auxiliary began the Fashion Collection in 1972, which now numbers over 10,000 items. The oldest piece in the Chinese Collection, Storage Jar, dates to 2200 BC. Also purchased during this decade were works by Elliot Dangerfield, Benjamin West, Richard Anuskiewicz, Thomas Sully, Richard Champion, Benjamin Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson, and William James Glackens.
The 1980s provided a time of tremendous growth for both the museum and the Auxiliary. In 1985, the Auxiliary created EMMA, the Endowment for Mint Museum Acquisitions. The purpose of the endowment is to acquire works of art that support the Collections Plan of The Mint Museum that also appeal to the demographic and sensibilities of the Auxiliary membership. These funds are managed by the Foundation for the Carolinas. Significant acquisitions purchased in the 1980s include works by Charles Burchfield, George Wesley Bellows, Harvey K. Littleton, Frances Cotes, and the Auman Collection of North Carolina Pottery.
In the 1990s, the Auxiliary helped the Fashion Collection reach a new level by funding the museum purchase of exquisite examples of historical costume and haute couture from Jacques Doucet, Christian Dior, Madame Gres, the House of Chanel, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, Gianni Versace, Pierre Cardin, Arnold Scaasi, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta. The Auxiliary also purchased paintings by William Charles Anthony Frerichs, Jerome Thompson, and funded the museum purchases several works of Spanish Colonial Art.
To usher in the 21st century, the Auxiliary acquired works by Arthur Bowen Davies, Augusta Savage, Lara Coombs Hill, Blanche Lazzell, and an extraordinary collection of American ceramics.
2010 marked the opening of the Mint Museum Uptown. To commemorate the occasion, the Auxiliary commissioned their first work ever as part of the Ten-Ten-Ten Project. Inspired by the women of the Auxiliary, Ted Noten created Slow: Eleven Women and 400 Daisies. Noten was named Dutch Artist of the Year in 2012. In 2011, the Auxiliary hosted Oscar de la Renta for a memorable and extraordinary fashion show. Mr. de la Renta donated a ball gown in honor of the Auxiliary. In addition to these works, the Auxiliary also purchased works by Dario Robleto and Albert Elbaz of Lanvin.
In 2012, the Auxiliary purchased a significant work of art, Scotland, by pioneer female artist, Grace Hartigan to commemorate the Auxiliary's 60th Anniversary. In 2013, the Auxiliary purchased an interactive work of art, Orbit 12, by Jennifer Steinkamp. Most recently in 2015, the Auxiliary recently commissioned the final work of art to complete the museum's 10-10-10 Project with the purchase of Tom Joyce sculpture, Thicket, slated for dedication on the Van Allen Terrace in October 2015.
The Auxiliary has grown from a small group of 60 women to over 600 members spanning several generations. To date, the Auxiliary has donated over $14,500,000 to The Mint Museum including funds and acquisitions. The six-decade partnership between The Mint Museum and the Mint Museum Auxiliary has been rich, strong, and beneficial to both the museum and the city of Charlotte.