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Baltimore Museum of Art to revitalize visitor experience with series of reopenings
Rendering of the East lobby.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art announced a series of reopenings that will revitalize the visitor experience of the museum and its outstanding collections. The next milestone of the multi-year renovation is the reopening of the historic Merrick Entrance, Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing, and East Wing Entrance & Lobby in fall 2014 to celebrate the museum’s 100th anniversary. The BMA also announced the expansion of its renovation plans for the first floor of the building to include new galleries for its Asian art collection and an exciting new learning and creativity center that will offer visitors of all ages unique ways to engage with works of art from the museum’s collection. The galleries for the African and Asian art collections and the learning and creativity center are expected to be completed by late spring 2015.

“Nearly a century ago, the BMA was founded by civic-minded leaders who were passionate about building a great museum for a great city, and the renovation honors our founders’ legacy for this community,” said BMA Board Chair Frederick Singley Koontz. “We are deeply grateful to our generous donors and government leaders whose support has made this important stewardship of the BMA and its world-renowned collection possible.”

“The BMA will begin its second century a transformed museum ready to welcome and inspire a new generation of visitors,” said Director Doreen Bolger. “At the heart of this renovation is our desire to make a powerful connection between art and people, so that the BMA will become a more vibrant destination for an expanding audience of visitors—both the community we serve and cultural tourists alike.”

The first phase of the BMA’s ambitious renovation was completed in November 2012 with the successful reopening of the Contemporary Wing. The current phase encompasses the first and second floors of the BMA’s original 1929 building designed by the acclaimed American architect John Russell Pope, the 1982 East Wing Entrance & Lobby designed by Bower, Lewis & Thrower, and critically important upgrades to the museum’s infrastructure. The architect for this phase of the renovation is the Baltimore-based architecture firm Ziger/Snead. Construction is being completed by Whiting-Turner Contracting Company of Towson, Maryland, and the project manager is Synthesis, Inc., of Columbia, Maryland.

The $28 million budget for the renovation includes $6.5 million for the first phase Contemporary Wing, two new roofs, and a new fire suppression system. The BMA has already raised $21.3 million to support the renovation through the In a New Light philanthropic campaign, including $11.25 million in capital contributions from the State of Maryland and $2.95 million from the City of Baltimore.

Merrick Entrance — The fall 2014 reopening of the original entrance to the BMA’s John Russell Pope-designed building heralds the museum’s goal to open its doors and provide more welcoming and memorable art experiences throughout the facility. Closed to the public since 1982, the newly reopened threshold establishes the Museum’s terrace steps as a community gathering place, sending a signal of welcome. It also creates a stronger connection with the revitalized upper Charles Street corridor and the development surrounding Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, Charles Village, and Remington neighborhoods. Upon entering, visitors will discover the BMA’s outstanding American collection, which will be the centerpiece of the renovated Pope building. The existing grand doors and vestibule for this historic landmark will remain intact, but the façade will have improved lighting. HVAC improvements will minimize the effects of outside air on the adjacent American Wing galleries. A special $1 million gift from the France-Merrick Foundation is supporting this area of the renovation.

Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing — Considered the BMA’s largest work of art, the Pope-designed Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing will be revitalized as a central gathering place for visitors with improvements that include the reinstallation of the original chandeliers, refinished surfaces, and the refurbishment of the terrazzo floor in the central hall. Nine adjacent galleries will feature a chronological installation of approximately 700 masterworks from the BMA’s expansive holdings of American fine and decorative arts. Curated by BMA Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and American Painting & Sculpture David Park Curry, the new presentation of the collection will offer a more global view of American art from the 18th century to the 1960s; provide a showcase for Maryland’s influence in art, architecture, decoration, and collecting; and a dedicated gallery for the museum’s stunning collection of glass works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Four Maryland period rooms will also be presented as art objects and used as domestically scaled galleries. The BMA’s distinguished American art collection is one of the finest on the East Coast, consisting of more than 30,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, silver, and other decorative arts objects dating from the colonial era to the present.

East Wing Entrance & Lobby—The BMA’s fall 2014 reopenings will also include the unveiling of the fully renovated East Wing Entrance & Lobby—redesigned to enhance the visitor experience. The renovation represents a complete overhaul of the museum’s East entry with the relocation of the main stair to create a more open and inviting connection with the second floor; a new, gracefully curved wall that delineates the new retail space; and improved circulation to the elevator. In addition, the refinishing of all lobby surfaces in a streamlined, modern, and refined material palette and the removal of columns that obstruct sightlines will create a lighter, more open, and expansive central gathering place for visitors. Enhanced visitor amenities include an expanded BMA Shop, more restrooms, additional seating, and improved signage and wayfinding.

Wurtzburger African Art Gallery — The gallery for the BMA’s African art collection will be relocated to the center of the building on the first floor of the museum and expanded to more than three times its former space. Curated by BMA Associate Curator of African Art Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch, the new presentation of the museum’s celebrated African art collection will include more than 100 objects in changing and thematic displays that will encourage visitors to appreciate the complexity and diversity of African art and cultures. The BMA has one of the earliest and most important collections of African art in the United States with more than 2,000 objects that span from ancient Egypt to contemporary Zimbabwe from more than 200 African cultures. Among the many important objects that will have new displays are D'mba, an unparalleled Baga female dance headdress from Guinea, and Ngaady Mwash, a stunning Kuba female mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Asian Art Galleries — Two new galleries on the first floor of the museum, including the relocated Levy Gallery, will enlarge and enhance the display of approximately 160 highlights from the BMA’s collection of Asian art. Curated by BMA Associate Curator of Asian Art Frances Klapthor, the museum’s Asian art collection has more than 1,000 objects from China, Japan, India, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and the Near East, with a particular strength in Chinese ceramics, especially mortuary wares from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and utilitarian stonewares from the 11th through the 13th centuries. Also notable is a life-sized early 15th-century bronze Guanyin from China, known as “Goddess of Mercy."

Learning and Creativity Center — A new 5,000-square-foot space will transform the visitor experience through a combination of art, technology, interpretation, hands-on art-making, and innovative programs that will inspire visitors of all ages to explore the BMA’s collection and their own personal connections to art. Located adjacent to the renovated East Wing Entrance & Lobby, the center will include five interrelated areas beginning with an Interactive Exhibition Gallery that invites visitors to encounter works from the collection—from different time periods, cultures, and media—organized around a theme or idea that has relevance to Baltimore. The learning and creativity center is being developed by Deputy Director for Education & Interpretation Anne Manning and will also feature:

• a maker space studio where young people and families can join in fun and challenging art-making activities;

• a community commons for innovative, informal, and experimental programs, many of which will be created in partnership with community organizations;

• a re-imagined research and learning space for the museum’s volunteer docents;

• and a more welcoming entrance for the nearly 20,000 school children who visit the BMA each year.

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