Spencer Museum facility expansion approved by KU Board of Regents

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Spencer Museum facility expansion approved by KU Board of Regents
The first phase of the expansion focuses on improvements to the existing Museum facility and lays the groundwork for a major future expansion.

LAWRENCE, KS.- Widely regarded as one of the top university art museums in the nation, the Spencer Museum of Art announced the first phase of a facility renovation and expansion, updating the Museum’s current facility to meet the needs of today’s most ambitious artists, students, researchers, and audiences while accommodating the more than 250% growth of the Spencer’s collections since 1978, when the building opened to the public. Today, KU’s Board of Regents has approved the plans for expansion, allowing the Spencer to pursue the additional funding required to initiate and complete the project.

The proposed facility expansion is much more than a building project—it is a definitive reinvention of the Spencer Museum of Art, embodying the Museum’s increasingly integrated relationship to the community and to the expanding role of the arts in academia.

The first phase of the expansion focuses on improvements to the existing Museum facility and lays the groundwork for a major future expansion. These eagerly anticipated improvements will transform the Museum’s lobby and Central Court, increase the capacity of the teaching gallery, introduce a multi-use object study room, completely renovate the auditorium and reception room, and update the storage and research facilities for the museum’s exceptional collection of works on paper.

Renovation of the Central Court will be a hallmark of the first phase of expansion. As the Museum’s main exhibition gallery and primary gathering space, the Central Court welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Spencer each year, inspiring the eyes and imaginations of people of all ages through engaging exhibitions, lively performances, and stimulating lectures. During the first phase of expansion, the Central Court will be recast as an expansive and light-filled public space. An in-gallery staircase and elevator corridor will create, for the first time ever, a unified gallery experience for visitors, allowing guests a continuous art- and light-filled journey throughout the Museum’s public spaces, complemented by a complete transformation of the Spencer’s entry lobby.

This mission-driven project, inspired by a desire to serve communities of learners in a facility befitting the Spencer’s world-class collection, will include a state-of-the-art, object-centered learning space. This area will offer individuals and classes a space outfitted for the first-hand study of objects of all media in a technology- and resource-rich setting. Phase I of the project will also have a transformative effect on two of the most heavily utilized spaces in the Museum: the auditorium and reception room. The auditorium, in particular, serves as classroom to many large university courses and also as one of the Museum’s most significant programming spaces for films, lectures, and major public programs; improvements to this space will allow the Museum to accommodate the technological, logistical and aesthetic needs of visiting artists and thought-leaders, and to meet the expectations of today’s audiences.

A major contribution from an anonymous Museum supporter will also allow the Museum to enhance the existing Print Study Room, where visitors can gain direct access to the Spencer’s substantial collection of 16,000 works on paper. Given in honor of Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings Stephen H. Goddard, this contribution recognizes Goddard’s profound national and international influence on the study of prints and printmaking, as well as the breadth and depth of his contributions to a thriving intellectual community in the Midwest. Goddard, who joined the staff of the Spencer Museum of Art in 1984, has organized more than forty exhibitions, many of them multidisciplinary and collaborative in nature. In addition to having served a term as president of the Print Council of America, Goddard has offered numerous KU courses on the history of printmaking, and has received diverse recognition for his exemplary work as a curator, scholar, teacher, and mentor. This anonymous gift recognizes Goddard’s legacy in an enduring way that directly affects the collection he has been instrumental in creating.

Phase I of the Spencer Museum’s expansion and renovation is privately funded; $3.4 million dollars in funding have currently been raised or pledged, demonstrating widespread community support for the project. The Museum plans to pursue additional funding to ensure that all goals for the expansion will be met, resulting in a facility that celebrates and inspires innovative art and groundbreaking scholarship at KU and throughout the Midwest.

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