3.04.2009

UI Museum of Art to open IMU and Levitt Center galleries; receives NEH grant

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) -- whose former building was severely damaged during the flood of 2008 -- has received an Emergency Flood Assistance grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to help turn the Iowa Memorial Union's (IMU) Richey Ballroom into an art gallery.

This gallery is one of three on-campus spaces specifically designed for classroom use that the UIMA will open for viewing this year. Two of the new art venues will be on the IMU's third floor; the third will be in the Levitt Center for University Advancement's Stanley Gallery.

In any given semester, courses enrolling approximately 2,700 students depend on the Museum of Art as a resource. Though these new UIMA spaces will be open to the public, they have been designed first and foremost with the educational needs of those students and faculty in mind. Viewing hours will be announced prior to the opening of each space.

"This wonderful cooperative effort helps us accomplish our top flood recovery priority: fulfilling our academic mission," said UI President Sally Mason. "Bringing resources of the UIMA back to our students is tremendous progress. I am thrilled that we are also able to fulfill our service mission by making important parts of the art museum collection available again for the enjoyment of Iowans and our larger public."

UIMA Interim Director Pamela White added: "Our primary focus since the flood forced the evacuation of the former UIMA building has been to find ways to continue to fulfill our educational mission. We are so grateful to the staffs of the Iowa Memorial Union and the Levitt Center for accommodating us in their buildings while we are without a permanent home."

The IMU's Richey Ballroom, a 4,000-square-foot space located in the northeast corner of the building, will house a broad, thematic selection of works from the UIMA permanent collection that will be used for classroom instruction. Also, the approximately 1,600-square-foot Black Box Theater, located just south of the Richey Ballroom, will periodically serve as a space for educationally oriented and faculty-organized temporary exhibitions.

"Hosting these Museum of Art galleries is consistent with our vision of the Iowa Memorial Union as a center for university life and activities and as a partner in the educational enterprise," said David Grady, associate vice president and director, University Life Centers. "I understand that the university's original art collection once hung in the IMU Main Lounge. In a sense, the art collection is coming back home. We are pleased to be able to partner with the Museum of Art during this transitional time and support the museum's academic mission."

Before it opens, each new art space will undergo construction to make it suitable for the display of art. Working with UI Risk Management and Lloyds of London, which insures the UIMA collection, the Museum of Art staff has developed plans to retrofit each space to maintain the levels of humidity, light and security that are required to keep art safe.

Renovation of the Richey Ballroom is scheduled to begin this spring with the goal that the gallery will be open for classes by fall 2009. The project has a total budget of about $1 million, 90 percent of which is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Of the $110,000 remaining, the UIMA will receive $30,000 from the NEH to defray expenses for shelving, lighting, and humidifiers to be installed in the ballroom, with the university funding the balance of the match.

Former NEH Deputy Director Thomas Lindsay visited the UI campus on Oct. 15, 2008, meeting with UI administrators and arts and humanities faculty, discussing with them flood-related concerns, touring flood-affected areas, and presenting at a ceremony in honor of UI scholars recently awarded funding in support for their work.

"This grant from the NEH underscores the validity and merit of the UIMA's efforts in making its world-renowned collections available once more to its public," said Jay Semel, associate vice president for research, who wrote for the grant on behalf of the UIMA. "Here we have a strong signal from an important national institution that the University of Iowa arts community and the Museum of Art in particular are essential to the university's mission and worth supporting."

For those who had reserved the Richey Ballroom for events, the IMU staff has identified comparable alternative spaces in the IMU or at the UI's newly acquired venue, the University Athletic Club, and notified the event's organizers of the change. Questions regarding reservations can be directed to Patricia Kruse, IMU campus event services manager, 319-335-3114.

The Levitt Center's Stanley Gallery, slated to open in March, will serve as a third on-campus space for the UIMA, housing African art selected from the museum's collection and a private collection to coordinate with current African art classes. Much of the museum's collection of African art was donated by the gallery's namesakes, the Stanley family of Muscatine, whose members have been among the university's most generous benefactors.

"Seeing these objects in person is an opportunity that very few students in American universities have," said Christopher Roy, UIMA Research Curator of Africa Art and Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Art History department. "It will make my teaching and their study much more rewarding."

"The Museum of Art curatorial staff is working closely with faculty to make sure the installations in these spaces are relevant to courses being taught," said Kathleen Edwards, UIMA chief curator. "We want these spaces to be useful for as many classes as possible."

The UI Museum of Art offices have been relocated to the Studio Arts Building, 1840 SA, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242. For up-to-date museum information visit http://www.uiowa.edu/uima or the UIMA blog "Art Matters" at http://uima.blogspot.com, or call 319-335-1725.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $1 million in Emergency Flood Assistance Grants for museums, libraries, archives, universities and other cultural and historical institutions in federally designated disaster areas affected by the floods in the Midwest. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this news release do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, UI Museum of Art, 319-335-1739, margaret-anderson@uiowa.edu; Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-335-0552, steven-parrott@uiowa.edu

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