Once construction is completed, executive director Pam Myers says the art, people and programs of the newly-renovated Asheville Art Museum will come next.
Myers was invited by Leadership Asheville Forum to give a presentation about the upcoming opening of the Asheville Art Museum.
“We want this space to be art-filled and activated with programs and events,” she said. “We’re opening with a re-installation of a selection from the permanent collection that will begin in the 1860s, and go to the present.”
It starts, in fact, with an 1860 landscape of western North Carolina by William Frerichs.
“You’ll follow a chronology, but you’ll also listen and learn about three themes that we’ve derived from pedagogy of Black Mountain College. One would be ‘experiments in material and form,’ another is ‘time and place,’ and the third is ‘collaboration and interdisciplinary dialogue,’” Myers said. “We follow those three ideas through each juxtaposition in works of art.”
Myers answered everyone’s big question — after an extended period of construction, the renovated museum will open this summer.
“When complete we’ll be a 68,000-plus square foot facility, the most state-of-the-art building in North Carolina. It’s actually three buildings that have been put together to create one coherent whole,” she said.
These include the historic preservation of the north wing, or the 1926 former library building by architect Edward Tilton, the east wing, and the brand new core of the building. A grand staircase unites all three buildings on every level, and natural light on both sides provides an east-west orientation throughout.
“Our idea was to create a building that was as contemporary and transparent as we could possibly make it, so it invited people from the park into the museum,” Myers said. “It was designed as a glass box in which floats a more solid volume housing the galleries that will feature the museum’s collections. Its core is clad in zinc metal panels that are perforated and lit from behind with LED lighting.”
The perforations were designed by a special computer algorithm created by students at UNC Charlotte to generate a truly a random pattern. The pattern has also been applied to the glass on the west facade of the building to serve as a light block making curtains or shades unnecessary.
The north façade features a 2,500-pound rectangular window called the Oculus with a commanding view of Pack Square. The publicly accessible rooftop terrace has outstanding views of downtown and the mountains. It is designed to display outdoor sculptures against the skyline.
Henry Richardson of New York named the sculpture selected for the opening “Reflections of Unity.” It will be installed on plaza of the museum.
It is composed of broken pieces of plate glass brought together into a six foot sphere atop a five foot tall locally sourced boulder, the idea being that the world can be brought together into a whole by consensus. The bullet proof glass sculpture weighs 2 tons, and will be illuminated at night.
The museum has new rooms designed especially for art storage. The state-of-the-art equipment will enable the museum to make collections more accessible to scholars and curators who wish to burrow or research the museum’s holdings.
Galleries in the special exhibition wing have movable walls so they can be custom configured for traveling exhibitions. Each floor has three of these galleries. Seven mechanical rooms provide the ability to electronically regulate temperature and humidity by zone.
Myers said the museum’s mission is to engage, inspire and enlighten through the visual arts, and in particular to focus on American art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
“Our vision is to transform lives through art and we accomplish it through an astounding array of programs for individuals of all ages from pre-kindergarten to senior citizens,” Myers said. “The museum was established by artists and incorporated in 1948.”
Asheville Art Museum moved to Pack Square in 1992.
In 2005, the museum inaugurated its capital campaign artworks for Asheville to develop the new museum. Since 2017, while construction has been ongoing, the museum’s educational programs have continued without cessation, serving over 360,000 participants last year through programs on site at public school and library systems, and other organizations.
“We serve the 24 counties of western North Carolina with educators on the road every day of the week delivering arts based curriculum to students who might otherwise not have access to them,” Myers said.
“Art PLAYce” is an intergenerational art space, filled with interactive elements that community artists and the STEAM Studio at UNCA is creating with museum staff. The museum also conducts talk times, story times, and home schooling programs on a regular daily basis.
“Our collection now numbers 5,000 works in all. Our board explores national arts organizations and artists in artistic and aesthetic movements. We have a focused collection that relates to Black Mountain College. We do collect significant work from southern Appalachia, and western North Carolina, including studio craft and contemporary artists who are working in a variety of media.”
The museum also holds 4,700 architectural drawings that explore the building environment in Asheville, drawings by Richard Sharp Smith and Douglas Ellington. Smith was the supervising architect for Biltmore House, and Ellington the creator of Asheville’s Art Deco City Hall, S&W Cafeteria, and the First Baptist Church.
Myers said that about 90 percent of her team is local or regional.
“We’re very proud of the people who over the past 20 months have figured out what a museum does, and have become really invested in making the best possible art museum in this community for the next generations,” Myers said.
To become a member visit the Asheville Art Museum website at www.AshevilleArt.org.