LAWRENCE — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Spencer Museum of Art a $406,542 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge grant. To fulfill the NEH’s requirements, the Spencer Museum must raise $1.2 million in matching funds by 2023. Collectively, the NEH grant and matching funds will support facility improvements that build on the success of the museum’s Phase I renovation. The museum reopened following the Phase I renovation two years ago today.
Planned modifications include the renovation of two galleries, as well as renovation of the Spencer Museum’s primary collection storage space for three-dimensional works of art and paintings and a replacement of the freight elevator that dates back to the building’s 1977 construction. Together these improvements will strengthen the museum’s contributions to teaching, learning and research at the University of Kansas as well as provide increased opportunities for up close viewing and study of the collection.
“The Spencer Museum’s diverse art collection is highly sought after for teaching by faculty at KU and other regional universities, for research by specialists all over the world and for exhibition by museums across the nation and abroad,” said Director Saralyn Reece Hardy. “These upgrades to our facility will make our collection more accessible to a global community of students and scholars.”
The Spencer Museum is eager to update the galleries that were untouched during Phase I renovations. The Kress and 20/21 galleries are on opposite ends of the museum’s fourth floor and were used to store art during the last renovation. These galleries will now get the improvements that they need.
“It will make such a difference to see those galleries brought up to the standard of the ones adjacent to them that were improved during Phase I,” said Mike Michaelis, president of the Spencer Museum’s National Advisory Board. “The enhancements to galleries and study and research spaces will increase accessibility and how people experience areas that are so heavily used by visiting classes and scholars.”
The Spencer Museum of Art has five years to secure the $1.2 million in matching funds to undertake these critical facility modifications. However, the staff hopes to begin renovation work much sooner. The freight elevator improvements are scheduled for late 2019.
“We anticipate undertaking the improvements to the freight elevator as soon as possible because this piece of equipment is critical for transporting art between our storage areas and our galleries and teaching spaces,” said Sofia Galarza Liu, head of collection management. “Its functioning is vital for how we share art in the Brosseau Center for Learning and Goddard Study Center every day.”
The timeline for other changes is still being determined and will depend partially on how quickly funds can be raised.
Photo: Visitors explore the Spencer Museum’s new Stephen H. Goddard Study Center. Credit: Ryan Waggoner, Spencer Museum of Art.