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Elizabeth Kanost
Spencer Museum of Art
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Spencer Museum reopening Oct. 15 following major renovations

Wed, 10/12/2016

LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art will reopen to the public Saturday, Oct. 15, after an 18-month renovation that has transformed exhibition and educational spaces. A weekend-long celebration featuring music and dance performances, art activities and new gallery installations will usher in a new era for the Spencer Museum.

Designed by internationally acclaimed architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the renovation transformed 30,000 square feet of the facility that had not been updated since it opened in 1978. Local architect Sabatini & Associates and Mar Lan Construction carried out the project. Three priorities for the renovation were to enhance academic spaces, infuse the building with natural light and improve circulation among galleries.

“We are thrilled to welcome the community back into renewed spaces in our beautiful location on campus,” Spencer Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy said. “Visitors will be able to revisit beloved works of art and also encounter stimulating juxtapositions throughout our galleries. The entire museum will be filled with art, light and activity.” 

Major highlights of the renovation include a glass-encased entryway and expanded lobby, new windows on the east and west sides of the building, allowing natural light into the galleries for the first time; a two-story window connecting art and nature with breathtaking views into historic Marvin Grove, a new in-gallery staircase and elevator to improve circulation, balcony outlooks that provide views from one gallery to another and an expanded academic suite.

More than 180 individuals and foundations gave nearly $8 million to complete the renovation. An anonymous gift established the new Stephen H. Goddard Study Center in honor of the Spencer Museum’s longtime curator and associate director. The center features custom shelves and lighting as well as expanded capacity for class visits. Adjoining the Study Center is the Jack & Lavon Brosseau Center for Learning, which facilitates short-term installations requested by faculty to incorporate works of art into their teaching. Upon reopening, the Brosseau Center will feature an installation related to the KU Common Book and Common Work of Art.

With prominent placement just off the Spencer Museum’s Central Court, these academic spaces will transform the museum’s learning, teaching and research collaborations with the university through opportunities for up-close investigations of objects from the museum’s collection.

“We have students training to be engineers, doctors, pharmacists and physicists, fields you don’t typically associate with the arts, who visit the Spencer and gain a perspective that benefits them in their studies. That’s exactly why the Spencer Museum is so vital to our mission as a flagship research university,” KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.

The Spencer Museum’s fourth-floor galleries will reopen with two new exhibitions from the permanent collection: “The Object Speaks,” which addresses the power of objects to carry cultural ideas from one generation to the next; and “Inventing Childhood,” which comprises representations of children across a diverse range of cultures and eras. The exhibitions “Empire of Things,” “This Land,” “Forms of Thought” and “20/21” will return with some minor substitutions to account for new windows and other changes to the galleries.

Reopening festivities begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 15 and continue throughout the weekend. All activities are free and family-friendly. Free parking is available in Lot 91 behind the Spencer Museum and in other lots nearby. After reopening weekend, the museum will return to its regular gallery hours Tuesday through Sunday.

Programming information

Saturday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Grand reopening day events include exploring renovated spaces, discovering reinstalled galleries and taking part in festivities that bring the building and works of art to life.

  • 10–10:30 a.m. The KU African Drum Ensemble kicks off the festivities and a ribbon-cutting ceremony created by the KU Textiles Studio.
  • 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Visit Pop-up Charlie’s Drawing Exchange for a surprise sketch.
  • 10 a.m.–noon Bird watch for Baby Jay.
  • 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Enjoy free culinary creations while supplies last.
  • 1–2 p.m. Experience a site-specific improvisation by the KU Department of Dance.
  • 1–4 p.m. Art Cart: Find inspiration from works of art on view and create a work of art to take home.
  • 2–4 p.m. Be transformed into a work of art by Sister Act Face Painting.
  • 2–4 p.m. Make a kite with artist Minh DuPha.
  • 4–7 p.m. Participate in “Resonant Vessels,” a cross-campus progressive concert commissioned by the Spencer Museum and performed by the KU Choirs that kicks off the new Integrated Arts Research Initiative. Details online at http://bit.ly/2bWoZlf.

Sunday, Oct. 16, Noon–4 p.m.

Reopening festivities continue with a free pancake brunch in the Spencer Museum’s Central Court until 2 p.m. and activities throughout the afternoon.

  • Noon–2 p.m. Enjoy a pancake brunch provided by Chris Cakes in the Central Court.
  • 1–4 p.m. Visit Pop-up Charlie’s Drawing Exchange for a surprise sketch.
  • 2–3 p.m. Watch Card Table Theatre bring art to life with “1,000 Words” performance.

Throughout the weekend

  • Join one of the informal renovation or gallery tours offered each hour.
  • Discover what it’s like to put a museum back together and create a paper masterpiece with local artist Juniper Tangpuz.
  • Make a mark on Wonder Fair’s “Lawrence Treasures Map.”
  • Visit the new Study Center, the Spencer Museum’s portal to thousands of works not currently on view.
  • Time-travel through 99 years of the Spencer Museum’s history with records from the Museum Archives.
  • Enter to win a free Spencer Museum membership and other prizes.

Admission is free.



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