The steel is going up inside the old walls, and the Art Academy Building Version 2.0 is beginning to take shape. There are a lot of other changes taking place in the Art Museum; some of them are visible, some of them are less so.
We will move into the former Art Academy building by the end of this year. I know that might seem hard to believe, given the presence of only a skeleton within the 1887 structure, but we are actually on or even slightly ahead of schedule (and below budget). We have already started ordering boxes, and those most worried about where our stuff goes have started planning our move. By the last week of December, those of us who are not preoccupied with the large crowds of visitors that usually come to the Art Museum during the holidays will install ourselves in the offices on the first and second floor of the renovated structure. By spring 2013, we will have moved the stacks into the basement of the adjacent French Wing, and we will open our new Mary R. Schiff Library and knowledge center on the third floor. Then you will be able to walk straight through the baroque and medieval galleries and into this new light-filled space overlooking downtown.
While all of this is going on, we are planning on how to reuse the spaces that will come free because of the move of the offices and the library out to the former Art Academy building. Some things we know for certain: the Cincinnati Wing will expand to the East, and what is now the Library reading room will become the core of our new education center. What are now offices next to that space will become galleries. On the ground floor, the area where the curators now have their offices, together with Artworld and the Fifth Third Lecture Hall and the Castellini Room, will become a new space for temporary exhibitions. At 12,000 square feet, it will be the largest one the Art Museum has ever had. Emersion, the firm that designed the Art Academy building renovation, is working with our Vision Plan Architects, Neutelings Riedijk, on the plans, and we have hired a consultant, Skanska, to make sure we can do all of this in an efficient and cost effective manner.
We know this will have an impact on our mechanical andelectrical systems, which we have been renovating, replacing, and updating continuously. We hired the firm Buro Happold’s New York office to study what we will need when, and we expect their report next week. We want to make sure our art has the right conditions, that our visitors are comfortable, that we use as few natural resources (and funds) as possible, and that we invest wisely in the future. Buro Happold is showing us how to do that.
While all of this is going on, we are continuing to renovate our galleries. The Icons Gallery just got its map, and soon will have more interactives, as well as a book that will act as a guide to these masterpieces. We have been improving the first phase of 6,000 Years, but delayed the second phase of that project until the fall. We want to get it right, and we also had the chance to show the Henry Ossawa Tanner exhibition, but needed that gallery space to do so. We have had many comments on 6,000 Years, and hope to use that to create a better visitor experience in those spaces. Meanwhile, we have been installing small thematic displays in the galleries: we hosted a very popular selection of pieces donated by Skip Fleischmann in the space adjacent to the Vance Waddell Gallery, and we have an exhibition on fairy tales as they show up in some of our collection. One of the galleries in the Cincinnati Wing now shows how Cincinnati artists pictured Venice. Look for more of such nodes in the next year. And look for more and better galleries, support spaces, and other places to enjoy our Art Museum in the coming years.