Bringing the Speed to the 21st Century

By on March 3, 2016
Speed Art Museum's new north building and wishbone sculpture.

By Brooke Moody–

Over the past four years, students have watched the Speed Art Museum transform as the original neoclassic building got a modern, yet mysterious, addition. Now, Speed is less than a week away from reopening its doors.

The museum will celebrate its March 12 reopening with a non-stop 30 hour party. Students can expect free music, films, performances and art. Other activities include a single elimination hip-hop tournament called March Dabness and Xbox Xtravaganza.

The event will showcase the museum’s renovations, art acquisitions and new education initiatives that have been years in the making.

“The board decided seven years ago to bring Speed to the 21st century,” said Speed’s CEO, Ghislain d’Humieres. D’Humieres joined Speed in 2013 and has overseen the $50 million expansion and renovations.

Changes to the museum include the addition of 10,000 square feet of contemporary art space, a state-of-the-art cinema and an outdoor art pavilion with green space and a water feature. The architect of this transparent masterpiece, Kulapat Yantrasast, seamlessly integrated the new, metallic-glass north building with the original museum building from 1927.

While Yantrasast brought the museum’s architecture to the 21st century, d’Humieres strove to realign with its original mission. “Mrs. Speed wanted the museum to be open to everyone and for it to bring international art to Louisville to make sure that the generations to come were going to be aware of the culture from around the world,” said d’Humieres. “This is exactly what we are doing, except we are doing it with 21st century technology.”

When the Speed opened its doors in 1927, Hattie Bishop Speed served as the first president and director of the museum. She founded the museum as the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum in remembrance of her husband, James Breckinridge Speed, a prominent Louisville businessman and philanthropist.

Over its 91-year history, the Speed has acquired many art collections including the Frederick Weygold collection of North American Indian artifacts and significant pieces such as “Two Apples on a Table” by Cezanne and Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Woman.” The museum had a collection of over 14,000 pieces, but the space accommodated displaying less than five percent of the collection.

Part of the reinvention will include a greater focus on creating a welcoming and educational atmosphere for everyone from young children to older adults.

“My mom would take us during the summer when we were little and they had a children’s part in the basement and I remember it being a lot of fun, but we never went and saw the ‘adult’ galleries,” U of L student Cat Glass said.

Now, the Speed directors hope to transform the museum into a place of continual creativity and learning.

“We are making the Speed a hub of creativity through art, music, dance,” said d’Humieres. “We want to have a very dynamic art spot for all the different generations and we really want to make sure that the public in Louisville will take advantage of that.”

And Glass is already making plans to do just that. “I’m nannying this summer and I think it will be a really fun activity with the kids.”

To make the museum more accessible, the Speed Art Museum will have free admission every Sunday for the next five years thanks to a donation by Brown-Forman.

“I’m thrilled about it and I’m hoping it will get people going to museums,” said Alexandra Ortiz, a sophomore who became interested in the arts after performing ballet for years. “If one art organization is doing well I feel like it will help grow the rest of the arts in Louisville.”

The Speed may also be even more accessible to members of the U of L community. “We have been talking to President Ramsey and his administration to find an agreement so that all students, staff and faculty will get free access to the museum,” d’Humieres said, adding the agreement hadn’t been decided yet.

The museum will also integrate into campus by collaborating with the Hite Art Institute and the College of Education.

After the grand reopening, the Speed Museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Until further agreement with U of L, the cost of admission will be $12 for adults, $8 for kids ages 4-17, military personnel and senior citizens and free for kids 3 and under.

Photo by Brooke Moody / The Louisville Cardinal

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