Visiting an art museum should be thought-provoking but also accessible, inclusive and welcoming. The Spencer Museum of Art’s recent fourth floor renovation aims to better serve the needs of its audiences as part of ongoing improvements.
“The reimagining of our fourth floor has created new and captivating spaces for gathering, learning and connecting with art and with each other,” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum of Art.
New York architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners helped the Spencer Museum reconceive the space and the way visitors experience the museum’s collection, which exceeds 48,000 objects.
New white oak flooring and energy-efficient lighting improve the aesthetics. Expanded gathering spaces, increased flow of light into the building and creating a new 1,150-square-foot multipurpose study space were part of the redesign. Named the Ingrid and J.K. Lee Study Center, the space is available for class and research visits as well as temporary installations and public programs promoting arts engagement. The late J.K. Lee was a professor in KU’s Department of Chemistry for nearly 25 years. Ingrid Lee continues to support KU through the family’s foundation.
Of all the changes, the most exciting is the way the galleries are designed to encourage visitors to find connections between their experiences and the art on display. Objects are grouped thematically to inspire conversations across cultures, space and time. Four themes are represented in the new galleries: Intersections, Empowerment, Displacement and Illumination. Pieces created by artists from diverse backgrounds were chosen to represent a broader range of voices and identities, providing a better understanding of narratives and experiences from around the world.
In addition to individual donations, funding for the $4 million project was provided by government and private foundation grants, including two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities totaling $800,000. The collections at the Spencer Museum of Art include contemporary and historic artwork in all mediums from cultures across six continents. Admission to the Spencer Museum is always free, with donations welcome.