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University of Virginia Art Museum

turning the whole Museum into an innovative classroom experience
From left to right:  Wooden Mask, Dan peoples of Liberia and Ivory Coast, 20th Century.  Fredric Edwin Church, Natural Bridge, Virginia,1852.

From top to bottom, left to right:  Exterior of the Bayly Building, interior gallery spaces.  Courtesy of Scott Critterden.

The University of Virginia Art Museum represents the pinnacle of what other Virginia campus gallery and museum spaces are attempting to achieve; a strong and diverse collection, increasingly modern facilities that make use of updated technology, and overall development of the museum’s ability to support an educationally focused mission statement. Within the last year or so, the first stage of a multi-stepped expansion plan has been expedited, extending gallery space, study space, preservation, and storage space. The trend of expansion is ever present in future plans for university museums across the country, so it seems only natural that the University of Virginia should be implementing a building campaign with the objective of raising the considerable funds needed to continue with the planned renovations.

             In considering the planned expansion, it is important to note the strengths and character of the original institute; the University of Virginia Art Museum has for three-quarters of a century been a model at the state and national levels. The University of Virginia Art Museum staff, which consists of nineteen people, makes a point to continually build the collection, by adding both breadth and depth to the genres with continued acquisitions and through the development of state-of-the art conservation and display spaces. The collection has strengths in Pre-Columbian and Aboriginal works, with the latter being one of the premier collection in the world. However, the American and European collections are also outstanding with pieces such as Fredric Edwin ChurchThe Natural Bridge (1852) and Giovanni Battista Lombardis Deborah (1875) in marble.

            In the present building, the campus tradition of Jeffersonian architecture is maintained in the graceful arches and high ceilings that make up the interior space. Neutral walls and floors enhance the galleries, allowing the exhibited art works to take advantage of the lofty space available to them. These features make the existing structure of the Bayly Building one of the best venues for art exhibition within the state of Virginia. The aim of the proposed expansion is to increase the current spaces ability to display the extensive permanent collection while simultaneously showing traveling and special exhibitions, which is presently limited by the Baylys size.

        With the expansion, the museum’s roll in the academic curriculum of the university will intensify correspondingly, with the addition of new lecture and conferences rooms, object, painting, and print study galleries, and a more fully integrated education program that reaches out to the campus and the community at large. The goal of turning the whole Museum into an innovative classroom experience is achieved with the opening of these normally “behind the scenes” area to student and public viewing as part of the programming.  

These along with a myriad of other services, such as increased access to the permanent collection, the availability of a digital collection library available on ARTstor and through the Online Collection, specialized public programs aimed at students, teachers, families, and even the Alzheimer’s Association, education is the central priority of the University of Virginia Art Museum. The staff continually seeks to increase the involvement of the campus, student body, and larger community within the museum through the continued development of an already impressive educational program; an initiative that draws on the desire to cultivate a growing awareness of the arts.

Taylor Horak

University of Virginia Art Museum