By Ryan Considine–

The Speed Art Museum will be closing this October for the start of a $50 million renovation plan. The renovations could close the museum’s doors for up to three years.

Emily Gunn, a sophomore fine arts major, wonders how the museum’s closing will affect the second half of her undergraduate career. Past professors have sent her to the Speed for assignments, and she worries they’ll have to send her elsewhere when the campus-based museum is no longer an option.

“I’m a student, an arts student,” Gunn said, outside her class in Schneider Hall, Monday on the Belknap Campus. “If I have to go downtown or somewhere else for class assignments, the cost is going to hurt.”

Teachers and students have mixed emotions about the closing of the museum. Art programs are sometimes reliant on the Speed for assignments and Dr. Benjamin Hufbauer of the Art History Program wonders if the changes will benefit academia.

“I say, ‘you need to go write a research paper on a work of art in the Speed Art Museum. Go see an actual work of art, sketch it and look at it.’ To not be able to do that for three years, that’s kind of rough. Everyone can understand being closed for one year or maybe a year and a half, but three years? That’s almost an entire college career,” said Hufbauer.

Although the museum will be closed to prevent damage to the artwork, the outreach programs and traveling exhibitions will increase. The museum’s collection of Rembrant and Reubens paintings will headline an exhibit in Memphis, Tenn. this month, as a part of their national tour.

Over the last four years, $43 million has been raised for the project through the Speed Capital Campaign including large donations from Dr. Frederick and Elizabeth Cressman and The James Graham Brown Foundation. In order to attract more viewers, the museum will be remodeling the original structures and adding new buildings providing more artwork. Heading the design of the project will be Kulapat Yantrasast, selected from Los Angeles-based wHY Architects.

“In our initial meeting, Kulapat had an immediate understanding of how to clarify our complicated, existing campus, punctuated by thoughtful expansion. The synergy between wHY, the staff and our trustees, was immediate and exciting,” said Charles L. Venable in a recent Speed Art Museum press release.

The new 60,000 square foot north building will double the previous overall square footage and triple the existing gallery space. The building will contain an indoor/outdoor café, museum shop, family education center, contemporary art galleries and a multifunctional pavilion space for lecturing and entertaining.

“The face of the museum will be totally transformed,” read the press release. “We would like to include lots of glass so we can light the building at night, so passerby can see inside the museum and see the people moving around and see the art.”

Phase one of the remodeling will include an outdoor sculpture park and public piazza between the museum and the University of Louisville’s Harry Frazier College of Business building. Phase two will be the renovation of the existing building, including skylights and the bordering grounds, and phase three will be the construction of a 5,000 square foot building located on the south side.
In 2010, the Speed’s attendance was around 70,000, but with new renovation plans, administrators hope to reach their goal of 200,000 visitors per year.

“I think 200,000 is a very ambitious goal, I would be very surprised if they meet that. That sounds like a bit of [public relations],” said Hufbauer.

Junior photography major Katie Walczak said she thought the expansion could increase attendence, but in the short term, its closure could “deprive students, children, adults,” and the rest of the Louisville community.

The Speed Art Museum was originally designed by Arthur Loomis in 1927 and contains more than 13,000 pieces of art from a 6,000-year time period. The plan will keep the museum’s original temple structure but will destroy the 1972 addition and the main entrance.

“It looks like a big old Greek temple,” said Hufbauer. “For students today is that really an attraction? They want to make it more welcoming, less like a museum and more like an Art Mart to get people in.”

Baylee Pulliam contributed to this article.
Photos: Aaron Long/The Louisville Cardinal