Changing speed: Speed Art Museum goes modern
By Peter Merrill–
One of the major construction projects currently happening on campus is at the Speed Art Museum, which is in the midst of a three-year, $50 million expansion that will be completed come March 2016. The new look to the museum will house more than just art and exhibitions. Upon its completion the museum will be roughly a 115,00 square foot space that both U of L students and tourists to the museum can enjoy.
The thought of expansion was first initiated three years ago when the museum wanted to become more modern. However, since the museum is supported entirely by donations, endowments, grants, ticket sales, and memberships budget became an issue until the generosity of the Brown Family.
“Most of are donations are in part thanks to the Brown family. They initially gave us a gift for our Capital Campaign for the North building. The campaign turned out to be a huge success and we earned more than expected.” said Greg Gardiner, Director of Operations and Expansion of the Speed Museum. “With the help of a second gift from the Browns it will allow us to finish the south building and renovation of the original.“
With the budget settled the museum is trying to go forward in both its looks and function. Gardiner says the new look of the museum will honor the past, but put Kentucky’s largest art museum into modern times, which is all stemmed from the design of the architecture.
“The new look of the Speed Museum is going to be part of a trend of new museums, that are less of a fortress of art. These new museums are styled in anew kind of architecture that has more windows, making them more transparent, and we think, more interactive.” said Gardiner.
The project has three phases: the North building, South building, and renovations to the original 1927 building.
“We are currently adding the new North building which is an approximate 65,000 more square feet, and an entire new floor to the museum. After that we will start work on the South building, and then renovate the existing 1927 building.” said Gardiner.
Construction will add more than new galleries to be opened, as the overall theme of the museum is to offer a place where everyone can enjoy. Gardiner says they are focusing on things outside for people to appreciate, too. Among some of the new features the museum will offer are a reflecting pool, a café, a revised gift shop, outside gathering areas, and an art park, which will house several different pieces of art, where students can walk through on their way to class.
Gardiner also says once renovations are completed Speed Museum will house a high-end state of the art theater which will showcase art films.
One of the problems that the museum faces is that most people think that the exhibits inside stay the same. This sort of mindset means that most people only come to the museum once then they never come back.
“I originally went to the museum on my class field trip in elementary school, and then never came back until I was brought on to work on the project.” said Gardiner. “ Like most people come to the museum one time because they don’t understand that the art inside changes. We hope that with a new museum people will want to come back, and we hope to communicate this information when the new building is open.”
Gardiner also said that one of his goals is to make the new museum a cool place for both students, and tourists to come visit, and revisit.
The museum has come along way since its opening 86 years ago as the J.B. Speed Art Museum, as a memorial to the late James Breckinridge Speed, who was a prominent Louisville businessman and philanthropist, by his wife Hattie Bishop Speed,
What was once a place for people to come enjoy fine art is turning into a place for people to enjoy not only fine art, but a new building that will be worthy of being called art itself.