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Updated 8:45 AM March 24, 2009
 

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UMMA's grand promise transcends art

New chapter opens with Saturday's public unveiling of landmark expansion

After years of planning, fundraising and construction, the future of the U-M Museum of Art is now.

On Saturday doors open to a museum more than twice the size of its former incarnation, riding an early wave of positive critical acclaim and an unmistakable feeling of hope and accomplishment.
Located along a pedestrian thoroughfare, the renovated U-M Museum of Art also is open to walkers. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Within minutes after stepping into the restored Alumni Memorial Hall and the new Frankel Wing, visitors will get an answer to the inevitable question: Is the 21st-century art museum worth the wait?

The evocatively triumphant feeling is unmistakable.

"This is a proud moment in the history of the museum and the university," says James Steward, UMMA director since 1998. "We are incredibly excited about at last throwing open our doors and living up to our commitment to being a beacon for the arts and a venue for the exchange of ideas."

In the two years since breaking ground for the new wing — named for lead benefactors, Maxine and Stuart Frankel — the museum world and philanthropy have been transformed, reeling from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Despite many museums undergoing cutbacks and financial distress, UMMA takes a bold step, marking its place among pre-eminent university art museums in the world.

"Our exhibitions and programs will position the museum as a meeting place for all the arts," Steward says. "Students, faculty and the community at large will be drawn to both learning and social opportunities, and the experience will inevitably build a stronger, deeper community with arts and culture at its hub."

Architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture designed UMMA's metamorphosis into a multidisciplinary museum town square. The $41.9 million project integrates Alumni Memorial Hall's Beaux-Arts style with a limestone, steel and glass-wall exterior along a major pedestrian path and traffic corridor leading through central campus.

From the stunning refurbishment of the Apse to the transcendent triple-height "Vertical Gallery," the new UMMA blends a traditional aesthetic with contemporary sensibilities in an engaging environment that reflects a spirit of innovation.

UMMA reopens with newly installed collections galleries featuring works from the museum's more than 18,000-piece collections. Inaugural exhibitions include "Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts, Projects, Buildings," "Expressions of Vienna: Master Drawings of Klimt and Schiele from the Pulgram-McSparran Collection" and "UMMA Projects: Walead Beshty," kicking off a new signature series that focuses on global contemporary art.

The Community Open House launching the transformed museum begins at 6 p.m. Saturday and continues for 24 hours with programming and events throughout targeted at students, families and visitors of all ages.

For more information, contact Stephanie Rieke Miller at 647-0524; srieke@umich.edu or go to www.umma.umich.edu.

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