Like many art museums around the country founded about the same time, Rockford Art Museum began in the late 19th century with a different name, but with the same purpose that exists today: to enrich the quality of life for people of all ages through a permanent collection, frequent exhibitions, and lifelong education.
No matter its moniker—Rockford Sketch Club (1887), Arts and Crafts Society, Art Association (1913), Art Guild, Art League, Art Club, Burpee Art Gallery (1936), Burpee Art Museum, and Rockford Art Museum (1986) among them—its goals have been to attract memberships in order to acquire and sustain a permanent collection within a permanent gallery space of its own, for the educational and cultural expansion of its community. This group of men and women has always had the mission of making life in Rockford better.
Rockford Art Museum boasts a diverse yet concise collection, acclaimed modern galleries, museum store, office, studios and classrooms; since 2004 the museum has been a Partner in Excellence of the Illinois Arts Council.
Now comprised of more than 1,900 works of art, the RAM Permanent Collection consists of modern and contemporary American art from the 19th and 20th centuries through today, from American Impressionist paintings to Chicago Imagist works to outsider art in new and mixed media; sculpture; photography; and contemporary glass. Regional art with an emphasis on Illinois artists remains a steadfast focus.
Important museum collections include the Arnold Gilbert Photography Collection, Hager Collection of self-taught African American art, Stevens Collection of contemporary art, Wiiken Collection of studio glass, and the Francis and June Spiezer Collection, called "the most significant collection of Chicago art, inside or outside the city" by art critic Paul Klein.
A non-profit, public museum, RAM is supported by memberships, individual and corporate contributions, and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and by the Armer Ahlstrand Charitable Foundation. Proceeds from Art in the Garden, Greenwich Village Art Fair, Evergreen Ball, and the Rockford Art Museum Store provide additional financial support.