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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida renovates original building
Faded wall-coverings will be discarded and the walls painted with colors to enhance the style or era of the art on display.
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.- “MFA Transformed: A Landmark Renewed” is well under way. The project to renovate the Museum’s original galleries will be completed by mid-September, and the results will be stunning. Long-familiar rooms will glow anew and will spotlight the MFA’s distinguished collection like never before.

The Museum of Fine Arts has a terrific collection housed in a landmark building,” said Director Kent Lydecker. “We are restoring the luster of the galleries and the Marly Room to provide an unforgettable experience for our visitors.”

The initiative is made possible in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida. Many individual donors have stepped forward to augment the effort; an ambitious fund-raising campaign continues.

The project prepares the way for the MFA’s 50th anniversary in 2015. Opened in 1965, the Museum of Fine Arts realized the vision of founder Margaret Acheson Stuart (1896-1980) and civic leaders in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg. The Stuart Society, the MFA’s dedicated support group, is named in honor of Mrs. Stuart. John Volk and Associates of Palm Beach designed the classically beautiful structure. The curving colonnade seems to embrace the city.

The Junior League Great Hall sets the tone for a welcoming museum, while resembling the large foyer of a grand home. It will gain a stone floor and an illuminated ceiling. Light will now fill the space. New York City’s Frick Collection—a house museum—inspired the MFA’s interior.

The Cyrus Fay Mackey and Howard Acheson Galleries adjacent to The Great Hall will now have wood floors, instead of carpeting, as will the Gary and Gail Damkoehler Gallery leading to the Conservatory. Blocking partitions will be removed or altered, offering open vistas from one space to the next and giving the art the space and attention it deserves. The art will have room to breathe—and to be enjoyed more fully.

Faded wall-coverings will be discarded and the walls painted with colors to enhance the style or era of the art on display. Windows facing Beach Drive will also be replaced with energy-efficient, storm-rated glass, encouraging visitors to look inside, day and night.

The elegant Marly Room, the concert/lecture hall added in 1974, will have a dramatic new look and personality. Hidden for most of the Museum’s history, a striking arched window at the back of the stage will be reopened. Restoration of this architectural highlight, in conjunction with the adjacent membership and sculpture gardens, will open up the Museum even more to its gorgeous setting. In addition, a new curtain and projection screen will be installed. The rare, early nineteenth-century Joseph Dufour wallpaper will be temporarily removed to art storage, pending conservation.

The renovation project will allow the MFA’s treasures to be reinstalled in fresh, imaginative ways. Rarely seen works will come out of storage and join audience favorites. More African and ceramic art will be on view. The ancient Antioch mosaic, weighing approximately 1,000 pounds and previously placed below the Statue of Aphrodite, will be displayed on a wall for full admiration.

The new MFA will be unveiled on Arts Alive Day on Saturday, September 28, when admission is free for residents of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. The 50th anniversary celebration will begin early and in style, always with a desire to connect the community through art.

The Museum has turned to one of the most respected designers in the field to guide this project. Jeffrey Daly, now leading his own firm, was the former Chief Exhibition Designer and Senior Design Advisor to the Director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for more than 28 years.

Mr. Daly worked closely with the legendary Philippe de Montebello and led the famed renovation and installation design of the Greek and Roman galleries. Architectural Record wrote that “the Met’s new Greek and Roman Galleries by Jeffrey Daly, sun-flooded and majestic, merit a high place among recent museum successes.”

He did similar honors for the galleries of Egyptian art, twentieth-century works, and Southeast Asian and Chinese objects, and collaborated with curators on more than 1,000 exhibitions. His designs for Diana Vreeland’s major costume shows received rave reviews, and he produced the installation design for Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.

In addition, Mr. Daly has led consultations and projects for Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s residence, and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, also in that city; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan, where he consulted with the great architect I.M. Pei. He was involved in the premiere installation of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and is the annual designer for New York’s Winter Antiques Show.



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