This week I am thrilled to join the community in celebrating the reopening of the Columbus Museum of Art and the dedication of the new Margaret M. Walter Wing.
This really is a rebirth for the museum. This project has been 10 years in the making and it is not simply a series of renovations and a new wing. The museum has shifted their philosophy on how they operate and engage with the community. They are adapting to a new world in ways that are inspiring.
I have never thought of the museum as a closed or unwelcoming place, but I suppose they along with others have inherited a certain public perception as a rarified, reverent space. While there’s nothing wrong with feeling reverent when you look at glorious works of art, that perception can leave some feeling a little timid about walking through the door.
Our museum has shaken the dust off of all of those old stereotypes. From design to programming choices our museum has declared loudly and proudly that this space is a community space and the art contained within is for all to experience.
The shift in mindset for the museum is significant and important to the community as the museum continues to develop innovative programs and resources that invite the community to actively participate in the arts (not just passively walk through a series of rooms).
I am particularly eager to explore the new spaces because my friend Michael Bongiorno, principal at DesignGroup, designed a building that truly expresses the new philosophy of the museum while still paying homage to the original building’s design. The new wing feels open and allows anyone passing by to look in. It is modern, but includes details that nod to the past and to the surrounding neighborhood.
At a recent talk, Michael shared a lot of insight into the design decisions made throughout the expansion process, including certain locations within the design that, when you find them and stand in just the right spot, provide a unique perspective to the space. He described these views as a cinematic experience, where architectural elements provide intentional frames for certain vantage points. In some spots the old and new architecture play off of each other, while in others you can see how light and shadow are called out when framed by design elements, and others create panoramic views that immerse you in the environment beyond the walls where you are standing. Be sure to check the gift shop for a printed fold-out map to find all of these spots when you visit the museum. It’s like a design treasure hunt.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to point out what the museum’s renaissance means for the city. Many of the renovations at the Columbus Museum of Art have positioned it to compete for high-caliber traveling exhibitions—the kind that bring tourists from around the country, if not the world. This means tourism revenue, and of course it will further increase Columbus’ growing national reputation as an arts and culture city.
This is going to be a wonderful week of celebration with the museum and I hope everyone will be able to join in some (if not all) of their events—including the free grand community opening on Sunday, Oct. 25.
So hats off to Nannette Maciejunes and the entire Columbus Museum of Art team! I for one love the #newcma.
Top image: View of Columbus Museum of Art’s new Margaret M. Walter Wing with the Museum’s historic Richard M. and Elizabeth M. Ross Building. Photo credit: Brad Feinknopf
— Tom Katzenmeyer, Keep up with Tom’s adventures on Twitter: @tomkatzenmeyer