By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal
After years of planning, the Art Museum at West Virginia University is becoming a reality, with an expected opening date in 2015.
The new Art Museum, located near the Creative Arts Center on Patteson Drive, will contain approximately 5,300 square feet of exhibition and gallery spaces on two levels, a large climate-controlled art storage facility, a classroom with full audio/visual capabilities, a collection research room and support facilities. Future plans call for installation of a sculpture garden outside the museum.
Designed by Atlanta architectural firm Stanley, Beaman and Sears, the museum will be physically connected to the former Erickson Alumni Center, now known as the Museum Education Center. That building will house offices, conference and education rooms, a lecture/performance hall, lounge, cafe and museum shop. The new Art Museum building itself will be approximately 26,500-square feet.
The museum’s two galleries will present touring exhibitions as well as exhibitions drawn from the university’s own art collection of nearly 3,000 pieces, including paintings, prints and works on paper, sculpture, ceramics and folk art.
Ground was broken for the museum in September 2013. The new building has been designed to be energy-efficient while controlling light, humidity, and temperature within the appropriate ranges required to protect vulnerable works of art.
Museum Director Joyce Ice joined WVU in 2009. With nearly 25 years of experience in the museum field, she was director of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for nine years where she oversaw numerous international exhibitions and accompanying publications, as well as an award-winning school program.
A graduate of WVU and the University of Texas, Ice returned home to her alma mater to take on the challenge of building a new museum in her native state.
“The Art Museum will be a place where people can experience art in an inviting and beautiful setting that encourages them to take a closer look,” Ice said. “We want people to feel exhilarated and inspired by the art, genius, creativity and skill that they encounter at the museum.
“Art helps connect us to other human beings, and to other cultures past and present.”
It’s envisioned that the Art Museum will not only expand educational opportunities for WVU students, faculty and staff but also serve as a cultural resource for northern West Virginia and the surrounding region. Funding for the project comes from the university as well as private donors through the West Virginia University Foundation.
Ice reiterated that sentiment in a blog posted to the museum’s website:
“As our mission statement proclaims, we intend the Art Museum to be a welcoming environment where people can experience the transformative power of art. The experience of art can be as powerful as a blizzard with all of the challenging disruptions it may produce, sometimes unexpected and beyond our control. Art can stop us in our tracks, and call our senses to pay attention to the fleeting moment, to focus on the astonishing, quiet beauty created by other human beings.”