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Updated 9:00 AM March 20, 2009

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Anticipation building for UMMA reopening

Preparations in place for March 28 unveiling; free 24-hour public opening set

Less than two weeks before the March 28 reopening of the U-M Museum of Art, and the chain-link fences that once marked the construction site have been removed. Gone are the detour signs that previously led students to circle the museum. Absent, too, are the semi-trucks and construction crews.

From the outside, the transformation is complete.
The Vertical Gallery is the heart of the Frankel Wing, with other galleries extending from it like spokes. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Now comes the proof that architect Brad Cloepfil's evocative exterior design shapes an inspiring 21st-century interior environment, a venue that blends a reverence for past aesthetic accomplishments with challenging exhibitions of artwork by today's artists experimenting with technique and the possibilities of self-expression.

"The new UMMA will be a vibrant meeting place for the arts, challenging the traditional museum experience," says UMMA Director James Steward. "Our aim is to be a bridge to the campus and community, breaking down traditional barriers between the museum space and the life that surrounds it."

After years of planning, fundraising, construction and reinstallation of artwork from its 18,000-piece collection, UMMA will be open for 24 hours to the public from 6 p.m. March 28 to 6 p.m. March 29.

There is no admission charge.

The renovated museum home of Alumni Memorial Hall and a 53,000-square-foot expansion elevate UMMA to among the largest and most innovative of university museums in the country. The new space, called the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing, is named for the project's lead benefactors of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Vote for your favorite
UMMA Art Pick

As the U-M Museum of Art gets set to reopen March 28 a few friends of the museum are offering their favorite pieces from selected works of art found in the collection and the museum invites the community to make a selection as well.

Each day for the next two weeks, the Record Update
( will feature favorite art picks of such friends as actor Jeff Daniels, President Mary Sue Coleman and other executive officers, former Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell, former football coach Lloyd Carr, men's basketball co-captain David Merritt and punter Zoltan Mesko, among others.

To vote for a favorite art pick go to

The $41.9-million transformation more than triples the number of works from the collections on view, offers multiple classroom and event spaces, and creates an expansive venue for special exhibitions. Cloepfil's design creates an open flow from gallery to gallery, transmitting a sense of movement and intimacy, and fostering a place conducive to both discourse and solitude.

"We can now showcase and interpret more of the collections alongside a wider range of temporary exhibitions," Steward says. "The new UMMA allows us to create a meeting place for the arts, a community hub in which to present and exchange ideas under one roof."

Bringing together a diverse range of artists working in the visual arts, film, literature, architecture and music, Steward says, will further enhance a sense of community and demonstrate the high commitment to the arts at the University.

Compelling features of the expanded and renovated space include:

• Skylights restored in the Apse inside Alumni Memorial Hall;

• 7,000-square-foot special exhibition galleries named for alumni benefactor A. Alfred Taubman;

• State-of-the-art art storage and Asian conservation lab;

• Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African Art;

• The first gallery dedicated to Korean art at a university museum in the United States;

• Extensive reinterpretation of the objects in the collections aimed at drawing connections between art and contemporary life and experience;

• Interactive (gesture-recognition) social learning tool called the DialogTable that offers multiple points of entry to and perspectives on the UMMA collections;

• 225-seat Helmut Stern Auditorium, home for film series, visiting writers' programs, lectures and more;

• Expanded Museum Store that includes one-of-a-kind artisanal furnishings and jewelry, earth-friendly gifts, books, clothing and wood art created from trees felled to make way for the new wing; and

• The Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Project Gallery devoted to presenting global currents in contemporary art in a glass-walled space along the University's central pedestrian corridor.

For more information, go to or contact Stephanie Rieke Miller, 647-0524 or

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