Home to more than 45,000 works of art, including rare ancient jewelry and a painting from Pablo Picasso, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art has become a main attraction for students and visitors alike on the IU campus.
Since May 2017, the museum has been closed for construction efforts in order to update the building to modern standards. On Monday, students were invited to a presentation in the Hutton Honors College to learn more about the renovations taking place inside the museum.
The previously named Indiana University Art Museum was built in 1982. Construction commenced under the architect I.M. Pei, who brought his modernist eye to the project. The museum’s collection grew every year, bringing in valuable works of art and craftsmanship. This led to renaming of the museum and closing of its doors to the public for the time being.
The museum is set to reopen in fall 2019 according to David Brenneman, the Wilma E. Kelley director of the museum. Brenneman, along with director of education Heidi Davis-Soylu, gave the presentation and said with the renovation will come tons of new features and programs specifically geared towards getting students involved.
“We’re helping the architecture of the building to be more inviting and engaging,” Brenneman said. “Our job is to connect people with amazing works of art. The modifications that we’re making to the building will enhance that.”
Arboretum Connection Walkway
The museum’s original blueprints in the late '70s included a skyway bridge to connect either side of the building, but Brenneman said it had been value-engineered out. Now it’s being added in, and will make it easier for students to get from the Fine Arts building over to the Arboretum through the museum.
Revamped gallery spaces
Brenneman said when the museum first opened, its funding ran out before it could curate its galleries to their full potential. Now, the newly renovated viewing spaces will feature more open and “contemporary” areas, with better lighting and new cases. Visitors will be able to walk through them in any direction, not just clockwise or counter-clockwise like before. Galleries will be set back further so that visitors can take a quick look inside before entering.
A center for education
Heidi Davis-Soylu said the museum’s goal is to become a preeminent teaching museum. Looking to become more involved in art education, the museum will introduce various new programs and an education center inside the building. The center will be home to classrooms, a lecture hall as well as study areas for prints and curatorial studies. Davis-Soylu said that they’re also starting an art-based wellness program for children 17 and younger that have suffered from neglect or abuse.
“There’s a lot of potential for healing and trust building and self-advocacy and self-efficacy,” Davis-Soylu said.
New video project space
The museums third floor will house a new video and virtual reality space that Brenneman said will be “dynamic and experimental.”
“We’re creating a special gallery which will be devoted to showing new media, so whether it’s immersive VR experiences, video works of art, anything that can be projected,” he said.
Renovated café and shop
The café and shop area of the museum will have a more modern look Brenneman said. He said their goal is for it to be a place that students want to hang out and study. IU freshman Michelle Castro said she’s excited to see the new café.
“I think it could be a really great social spot,” Castro said. “Because art museums, most people think of them as being only a place to see art, but you can also meet up, hangout and learn something together.”
The renovated Eskenazi Museum of Art doesn’t open for another year, but students can visit the Grunwald Gallery of Art inside of the Fine Arts building and attend First Thursdays in the meantime.
Davis-Soylu, whose department is involved in First Thursdays, said she thinks art can be extremely powerful.
“I really believe in the power of the arts to really solve big problems, and also be a place of celebration of the good things that human beings can do,” Davis-Soylu said.