U.Va. Art Museum Renovation Is in the Home Stretch

August 14, 2009 — The dust is beginning to settle at the University of Virginia Art Museum, which is scheduled to reopen next month after a $2.5 million, five-month renovation.

"We're starting the engine," said Elizabeth Hutton Turner, vice provost for the arts, explaining that the new climate control and lighting systems are ready for testing.

The project is coming in on time and on budget, Turner said. Although the post-construction cleanup has started, workers and ladders still populate the Beaux Arts-style Thomas H. Bayly building, designed by former architecture dean Edmund S. Campbell and built in the 1930s.

Bruce Boucher arrived at U.Va. in March as museum director, just before the project began. He said the renovation does justice to Campbell's architecture while providing better and more flexible exhibition spaces, as well as classrooms.

"Any department that wants to come in and use the museum as a teaching and learning facility will be able to do so," he said Thursday, as he showed off new storage and display cabinets and freshly painted walls.

A balcony that hadn't been used for years will now be a vantage point to see the Arts Grounds in its entirety. Overlooking the School of Architecture; Ruffin Hall, the studio art building; and the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, Boucher said, "From here, you really get the idea of the Arts Grounds. We want to turn this into a usable terrace."

Taryn Harrison of Facilities Management is the project manager. Boucher also credited Bret Gentry and Leonard "Spike" Weeks of Facilities Management with keeping the project moving. "I can't praise them enough," he said.

The Board of Visitors will get a preview of the museum on Sept. 10, followed by a members' preview on Sept. 11. The museum will reopen to the public on Sept. 12 with three special exhibits: "Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village: The Creation of an Architectural Masterpiece," "The Expanding Eye: Art Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe" and "Abstract Photography: Selections from Glenstone."

Meanwhile, Boucher is staying busy with the final details of the renovation and the upcoming art installations.

"Being a museum director is a bit like being a village doctor," he said. "You try to take care of everybody."