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The Speed Art Museum announces temporary closure during the construction
The expansion will create a state-of-the-art space for larger special exhibitions. Photo: Courtesy wHY Architecture.

LOUISVILLE, KY.- With a $50 million expansion planned through 2015, The Speed Art Museum Board of Trustees announced a temporary closure during the construction. The new 60,000-square-foot North Building will help create one of the finest experiential art museums in the country and will double the overall square footage and nearly triple the gallery space from the existing wing. The expansion will create a state-of-the-art space for larger special exhibitions, new contemporary art galleries, a family education welcome center, indoor/outdoor café, museum shop, and a multifunctional pavilion for performances, lectures, and entertaining. Additionally, the new Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park and public Piazza will be created for the display of sculpture that will engage University of Louisville students and faculty and museum visitors.

“Our ability to expand in a difficult economy speaks to the strength of our financial status, the generosity of our donors, and the incredible development work of staff and volunteers,” said Todd P. Lowe, Board Chairman. “We’ve raised more than $43 million through our Changing Speed Capital Campaign, so we feel comfortable planning for ground breaking in fall 2012 and moving to the construction phase. We truly had hoped there would be a way to stay open during this transformation, but we don’t want our guests to have a diminished experience or be put in harm’s way due to the construction.”

“We do realize this action will result in the inability of our patrons to fully enjoy our extensive art collection and programs during the time of construction, and the staff is developing a comprehensive plan that will enhance our ongoing community outreach and partnerships with other local institutions. Also, the staff has anticipated the potential need to close, as was the case during the Museum’s renovation in the 1990s, by developing traveling exhibitions featuring artworks from the Speed’s collection. For example, the exhibition Rembrandt, Rubens and the Golden Age of European Painting from the Speed Art Museum opens in Memphis, Tennessee in January as part of the show’s national tour. Tours such as this one help to solidify Louisville’s reputation as a tourist destination, especially for cultural events. We anticipate additional exhibitions of the Speed’s artworks will tour during the construction period. As these and other initiatives come to fruition we will make sure information is available to the public in a timely fashion.”

Board Treasurer Ann C. Wells added, “This was undeniably a difficult decision, but over half the museum will be closed during construction regardless, including many galleries and Art Sparks, which is an enormous draw for families and children. Since we will demolish the 1972 addition, even our main entrance will disappear. Once we understood the full extent of the disruption that will be caused by construction, the Trustees had significant safety concerns for patrons, as well as the priceless works of art of which we are the stewards. In good conscience, there was not another alternative, and we ultimately came to this decision in complete unanimity.”

“As the leading art museum in the Commonwealth, the Speed is nationally recognized for the high quality of its art collection and for exceptional programming, like exciting special exhibitions, engagement with living artists, activities for children and families, and much more,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, Director and CEO of the Speed. “We need to provide powerful and stimulating visual experiences for our visitors, and that will simply not be possible during construction. The silver lining is that once the expansion is completed in late 2015, the Speed will be better than ever in a multitude of ways. We have chosen to remain on our site adjacent to the University of Louisville and to preserve green space, rather than move downtown or cover our property with structures. We have selected architects who understand that our buildings and landscape are not the goals themselves, but rather are vehicles for enhancing the experience of viewing great art for our visitors,” he said. “I am very proud of our Trustees for their leadership over the past five years and their willingness to face the tough decisions throughout this complicated expansion process. We will all benefit from their leadership.”

“With so many arts organizations struggling in this economy, we are delighted the Speed has not only balanced its budget annually, but been able to push forward with its expansion planning,” said Venable. “There is a great deal to celebrate as recognized by the American Association of Museums that that just reaccredited the Museum. AAM reviews thousands of museums and gave the Speed its highest seal of approval, praising our commitment to excellence, financial accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. We are also proud to have a four-star review by Charity Navigator, a hallmark of responsible financial management of non-profit organizations.”

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