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NEH Fund to Renovate RISD Museum Building
A front entrance of the Radeke Building to be totally reinstalled for first time in 80 years.

PROVIDENCE, RI.- The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded The RISD Museum of Art a challenge grant to increase public access and improve the organizational design of the Museum’s Eliza Radeke Building, one of the four buildings making up its current complex. Grant funds will be used for the reinstallation and reinterpretation of the Museum’s comprehensive permanent collection with a focus on the restoration of the interior spaces of the Radeke building to display artwork previously unavailable to the public, and to improve the visitor experience by creating a logical progression for viewing exhibits. This project marks the first time in six decades that the Museum’s sequence of galleries will be systemically reinstalled, and the first time that it has been addressed in a comprehensive way. The first phase of the reinstallation is timed with the opening of the Happy and Malcolm Chace Center which will include major new galleries, program space, and visitor amenities in September, 2008.

“NEH is delighted to award one of our prestigious Challenge Grants to The RISD Museum of Art,” says NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. “The Endowment is working to democratize the humanities and bring their benefits to all Americans. This $600,000 grant will further this goal, by allowing the Museum to improve visitors’ access and make more of its outstanding collections available to the public.”

“This grant award offers critical support to help us bring our outstanding museum collections to the public,” comments Hope Alswang, RISD Museum Director. “With renovations in Radeke and the opening of the new Chace Center on the horizon, the Museum will become an even more important resource to the community than it is today. We are grateful to the NEH for investing in this project.”

NEH Challenge Grants are awarded with the requirement that they are matched with new sources of support. The Museum must raise $2.4 million to meet the “challenge” of which $535,000 toward that goal has already been secured.

SCOPE OF REINSTALLATION AND RENOVATION: The NEH grant will be used to support the renovation of the third, fifth, and sixth floors of the Radeke Building. In addition to the Radeke wing, Charles Pendleton House (1907), Waterman galleries (1897), and the Daphne Farago Wing for Contemporary Art (1991) currently serve as the Museum’s permanent collection galleries and for special exhibitions. The redesign and improvements to Radeke will make it easier for visitors to negotiate and explore the space, while sharing more of The RISD Museum’s diverse collections of over 84,000 works of art with the public.

The project will take just over four years to complete. The RISD Museum’s curators and educators will work with exhibition designer Stephen Saitas and Ed Wojcik Architects to bring the project to life.

The renovation of the Radeke Building galleries is only one piece in a much larger building project at The RISD Museum, featuring the new Happy and Malcolm Chace Center. This significant addition, providing the Museum with much-needed additional gallery, educational, and retail space, will give the Museum a new and prominent entrance facing downtown Providence, on North Main Street. The addition of the Chace Center, and the new space it affords the Museum, created the opportunity to systematically rethink the entire Museum complex, tying all of the buildings together in a more unified and rational fashion. For example, as visitors arrive at the Chace Center’s North Main Street entrance, an escalator will take them to the third floor where they will find two galleries dedicated to special changing Museum exhibitions. The smaller of the two will lead to a glass pedestrian bridge connecting it to the Radeke Building, its new central gallery and the Museum’s main floor.

Constructed in 1926 by William T. Aldrich, the Radeke Building is an historic landmark in Colonial Revival style. It is the anchor to the four-building complex that comprises The RISD Museum. Its elegant spaces have provided a home to the primary galleries for the Museum’s permanent collection, but have not seen significant restoration or redesign since the 1940s.

THIRD FLOOR: FIRST PERMANENT SPACE FOR TWENTIETH CENTURY: The new Radeke third floor will become the Museum’s main floor, welcoming visitors from around the world through a connecting bridge from the Happy and Malcolm Chace Center. Its central gallery will display Twentieth Century painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the collection, including works by Richard Artschwager, Grace Hartigan, Wifredo Lam, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Betty Woodman, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The reinstallation will allow the Museum, for the first time in its history, to exhibit its important collection of Twentieth century Latin American art alongside North American and European painting and sculpture, decorative arts, prints, photographs, and costume and textiles.

The gallery previously known as garden gallery will be converted into a much-needed lecture hall made possible by Mrs. Murray S. Danforth Jr. The flexible space with movable seating and presentation technology will overlook the Radeke Garden, offering an ideal spot for meetings, lectures, artists talks, and other educational programs for audiences of around 40.

Smaller galleries on the third floor will be devoted to rotating exhibitions of prints, drawings, and photographs. Previously unseen collections, including photographs by Harry Callahan and Manuel Álvarez Bravo and drawings and watercolors by Jacob Lawrence, Diego Rivera, Ed Ruscha, and David Smith, will be displayed in these spaces. Additionally, for the first time, space will be devoted to video art and light installations on this floor. Improvements are scheduled to begin in July 2007 and unveiled to the public with the opening of the Chace Center in September 2008.

FIFTH FLOOR: UNITING THE ANCIENT WORLD: Linking the Museum’s ancient cultures together will be another triumph of the renovation. The Weiss Gallery of Ancient Art was made possible by Arnold-Peter C. and Yvonne S. Weiss. Currently, the collections are spread throughout Radeke, lacking cohesion in the story they tell to visitors trying to navigate the space. With the reinstallation, the Museum will consolidate all of its ancient collections in a continuous installation on the fifth floor, bringing Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Hellenistic art together in contiguous galleries. This display will relocate some of the treasures of the ancient art collection including the Egyptian mummy Nesmin, a giant Roman sarcophagus, and the collection of ancient jewelry and coins. Construction on the fifth floor will be complete in Spring 2010.

Also on this floor are the recently refurbished Main Gallery which was made possible by support from the Champlin Foundation, Ida Ballou Littlefield Memorial Trust, and the RISD Museum Associates; and the Paula and Leonard Granoff Galleries.

SIXTH FLOOR: ROCKEFELLER GIFT HONORS MOTHER AND AUNT: A popular site for school groups and families, Radeke’s sixth floor currently displays Asian (Chinese, Indian, and Korean) sculpture, ceramics, prints, textiles, and jewelry with a special room for the 9-foot-tall Japanese Buddha. The suite of Asian galleries includes spaces devoted to Japanese prints and Asian textiles in honor of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Lucy Truman Aldrich, the two significant benefactors to the Asian prints and Costume and Textiles collections.

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Gallery, designed by architect Philip Johnson and opened in 1953, showcases Japanese woodblock prints from the permanent collection on a revolving basis. Mrs. Rockefeller gave around 700 of these to the Museum between 1934 and 1941; half of the total number of 1400 w

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