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RISD Museum closes year with significant gift to cap Radeke Restoration Project
The Eliza G. Radeke Building's south stairway and sky lit landing as seen in 1935. The skylight will be reclaimed through the Radeke Restoration Project's sixth-floor renovations. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design. Courtesy of the RISD archives.

PROVIDENCE, RI.- The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design announced that it has received a donation that caps the fundraising effort to complete ongoing improvements to the Eliza G. Radeke Building ---- one of the five buildings making up its current complex and an historic resource in the College Historic District. This comes at a time when the RISD Museum has completed significant portions of the $8.4 million project and now embarks on its final phase of renovations and reinstallations to the Radeke Building's sixth floor.

The most recent gift, from the Champlin Foundations was $250,000 to match an anonymous challenge from a large national foundation. The Champlin Foundations has contributed to earlier phases of the six-year project and, at $762,000, is the largest contributor overall. Also contributing to the Radeke Building's sixth floor are the Angelo Donghia Foundation, David Rockefeller, Bafflin Foundation, and Hope and Michael Hudner. A 2006 National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant supported interpretive strategies for the overall project though a $600,000 matching grant for reinstalling and reinterpreting the permanent collection.

"We are extremely grateful for this latest, very generous round of support that allows us to initiate the final phase of the restoration of the Museum's historic Radeke building," says Museum Director John W. Smith. "This project has transformed the manner in which we present our permanent collection and continues to enhance the experience of our visitors. The success of this project is the result of our many generous supporters, our dedicated staff, and the input of the greater RISD and Providence community."

The project has thus far addressed two of the Radeke Building's three gallery floors, including galleries for ancient Greek and Roman, European, and 20th-century art, as well as dedicated spaces for the exhibition of photography, works on paper, and new media. The project added a lecture hall, a classroom adjacent to the galleries, and restrooms; significantly improved gallery lighting; improved fire protection; and provided full handicap access.

In November 2012, the RISD Museum closed the sixth-floor Radeke galleries for ancient Egyptian art, Asian art, and costumes and textiles in preparation for renovations to begin April 2013. The sixth floor is home to some of Rhode Island's most important cultural treasures, including two prominent visitor favorites: the Museum's Ptolemaic-period coffin and mummy of the Egyptian priest Nesmin (ca. 250 BCE), and the 10-foot-tall Dainichi Nyorai Buddha (ca. 1150-1200) ---- the largest Japanese seated figural sculpture in the United States. While the floor is closed to visitors, the mummy ---- and other objects from the ancient Egyptian collection that serve as a cornerstone of Rhode Island middle school curricula ---- will move to the Waterman Galleries for Made for Eternity, a special exhibition opening in March 2013 about art-making in ancient Egypt. Conservation of the 12th-century Buddha, and other important works of art in the Museum's collection, is already underway.

When the sixth-floor galleries re-open to the public in spring 2014, visitors will enjoy new installations of Asian and ancient Egyptian art, and a new study gallery featuring selections drawn from the Museum's rarely seen 26,000-piece collection of costume and textiles. Improved lighting, and casework throughout the space will enhance the visitor experience, as will natural light from a skylight that had been covered by prior renovations.

A fresh interpretive approach will emphasize the material aspects of art and design production ---- including technical training, skills, working methods, and materials ---- as well as the social and historical contexts in which these objects were created. Complementary text and audio will support a deep engagement with objects, their function, cultural significance, and life history. Classroom resources available through the Museum's website,, will support K-12 content and skills, including close-looking, careful investigation, and thoughtful reflection.

The RISD Museum collection offers a "great opportunity to expose students to history through art, and teach them how to observe more carefully and critically," says Chris Audette, Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for the Providence Public School Department and sixth-grade social studies teacher at Providence's Nathan Bishop Middle School. He adds that the Museum's interpretive approach encourages students to make "connections between the past and the present, between art and history, and between art and writing."

The sixth-floor renovation and reinstallation is led by RISD Museum Deputy Director Ann Woolsey, who has overseen the previous phases of the Radeke Restoration Project. Architect Ed Wojcik leads the design team, which includes Gallery Designer Stephen Saitas and Lighting Designer Anita Jorgensen.

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