Itâ€™s undeniable that excitement is building exponentially for the reopening of the Speed Art Museum on March 12, 2016. Since The Speed Art Museum Board of Trustees announced in late 2011 that the museum would be temporarily closing to allow time for the expansion, the public has been eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the new space. And now, on the brink of reopening, they surely wonâ€™t be disappointed due to the glorious aesthetic of the renovated building and the unparalleled collection of art the museum will feature.
And they wonâ€™t just see the work; one of the major hopes of the expansion has been that the art pieces spark conversation and introspection in regards to themselves and the modern world. â€œPeople may wonder what objects made on the other side of the world or 2,000 years ago have to do with me and my life,â€ says Kim Spence, curator of prints, drawings and photographs, â€œbut art is an expression of the human experience. Many of these objects convey common themes that we all can relate to, whether itâ€™s honoring your loved ones in life and death, or how our spiritual beliefs affect our daily lives.â€
But itâ€™s not just art from 2,000 years ago that can accomplish such feats. The Speedâ€™s dazzling contemporary art collection will be on full display in a 9,000-square-foot gallery located inside the museumâ€™s new North Building. Prior to the renovation, the Speed was not able to showcase the collection as much as some would like, but thanks to the updates, that wonâ€™t be a problem anymore.
â€œOne of the key goals of our entire expansion and renovation project was to provide space to share our collection of contemporary art,â€ affirms Scott Erbes, Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. â€œIn the past, we really did not have sufficient space for that, and now we do. So itâ€™ll be the first time that significant parts of that collection are able to be shown simultaneously. Weâ€™ve always had to do it in bits and pieces in the past. I think this is going to be a much more broad and immersive experience for our visitors.â€
In addition to the expansive spaces inside, contemporary art will be featured outside at the Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park. The park is completely free and includes sculptures by Henry Moore, Deborah Butterfield and Mark Handforth. There are also multi-media installations, including work by sound artist Susan Phillipsz. For Erbes, this amalgamation of mediums is precisely what will make the park so uniquely engaging.
â€œPart of [Contemporary Art Curator Miranda Lash]â€™s plan, which I think is brilliant,â€ he describes, â€œis that we treat part of the Art Park outside as contemporary space where we have an installation up for a month or a year, and then it goes away and something else comes into the space as opposed to a more traditional sculpture park, where fixed, three-dimensional things go into that space and are there for many, many years. Weâ€™ll have a mix of both.â€
Back inside, a 5,600-square-foot space will be the new home to the Kentucky Collection. Such mediums as painting, sculpture and decorative arts â€“ all created by Kentuckians from 1800 through the 1940s â€“Â will be on display. â€œThe Speed is the stateâ€™s oldest and largest art museum,â€ Erbes explains, â€œand we really feel like we have a responsibility to share the artistic heritage of the state with our visitors.â€
Meanwhile, the revered permanent European and American art collections have been totally reinstalled in revitalized gallery spaces. â€œIn the newly installed European and American galleries, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a wide variety of histories,â€ describes Erika Holmquist-Wall, Mary and Barry Bingham, Sr., Curator of European and American Painting and Sculpture. â€œMy goal is to provide a number of â€˜ahaâ€™ moments throughout the galleries â€“ I want the artworks to be triggers for a conversation or experience. Itâ€™s really important to create several entry points for our audiences and show them something they can either immediately relate to â€“ or create a desire to understand and learn more.â€
Dean Otto, curator of the Speedâ€™s new film collection, similarly looks forward to using his specialty to encourage broader discussion: â€œEverything will look and sound its best technically, and Iâ€™ll be enhancing the programs with introductions, extensive program notes and post-screening discussions,â€ he offers.
But The Speed is also interested in being a one-of-a-kind experience for artists as well as guests. â€œOur goal is for the Speed to become a laboratory for artists to experiment, create new work and bring new ideas to Louisville,â€ contends Contemporary Art Curator Miranda Lash. â€œVisitors can expect to be surprised, challenged and encouraged to ask questions about what defines art, and how art can change with our understanding of our local community, and other communities around the world.â€
Regardless of individual classifications, however, one of the most tremendous things about the Speed is that its work spans the gamut of the creative spirit. â€œOne of the things the visitors will see in various spaces … is where all the curators have come together and put together galleries that span the whole of the collections â€“ that bring together everything from Ancient Roman material to contemporary art â€“ really to show that the spirit of human creativity transcends time.â€
And with material that covers 6,000 years of creativity and a whole new architectural design, the collection of pieces both new and old will be more accessible than ever before. VT
Photos courtesy of The Speed Art Museum