By CHARLES L. VENABLE, PH.D.
Your Voice Contributor
As the Speed Art Museum moves closer to the watershed moment when our $50 million expansion begins to take shape, we are looking forward to seeing old friends in new places. Most of you know that our three-year renovation will bring with it construction that necessitates a temporary closure. That event will soon be upon us, and now the Speed has the opportunity to re-imagine how our priceless collections can engage and excite the art-loving communities in Louisville – and beyond.
I want to share with readers of The Voice-Tribune what’s in store when we reopen. The museum will include extensive renovated and new spaces for special and permanent exhibitions of extraordinary works of art. These include a recent gift of more than 100 pieces of Kentucky furniture, paintings and silver; distinguished collections of European, American and Native American art; and, for the first time ever, a large portion of our contemporary art collection. These new galleries will allow us to host premier art exhibitions from around the globe that would otherwise not be accessible in Kentucky, while offering visitors a larger assortment of art from our own holdings.
We will also have entirely new space for an outdoor café, restaurant, museum shop and multifunctional pavilion for performances, lectures, dinners, special events and community and corporate gatherings. In addition, a wonderful Art Park and Piazza will be created for the display of sculpture that will engage Speed visitors, as well as University of Louisville students and faculty, while providing space for outdoor films and performances. This is a great enhancement to a museum that has been open since 1927 to benefit the citizens of Louisville, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the entire region.
Our expansion kick-off event and groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Friday, Sept. 21, with the celebration continuing that weekend. After that, we will become the “Speed About Town,” developing and strengthening our many affiliations with other local and regional institutions, which will have us out in the community with a wider variety of programming than ever before.
For example, while we are building new galleries and renovating old ones, the Speed will be lending art from our collections to other public facilities. You will soon be able to see art from the Speed gracing the walls of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Frazier History Museum, Louisville Metro Hall, and the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort. Similarly, exhibitions organized by the Speed are now touring the country and region, and that initiative will continue in force throughout the renovation.
Events for both our members and the general public will take place at an even larger number of institutions. Just to name a few, the Speed is already collaborating with the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville Visual Arts Association, Crane House: The Asia Institute, University of Louisville, and the Louisville Science Center to help sponsor and develop programs that will offer enhanced visual arts experiences across the community.
The same is true for many area schools that have long enjoyed close ties to the Speed. Expanding what we do for more than 30,000 student visitors is a number one priority for the museum, and one aspect of that broader mission is the design and development of an in-class art suitcase program for use in schools throughout the county, so more youth will have exposure to world-class visual arts.
Whether you are a member of the Speed, a supporter of the University of Louisville, a parent or grandparent bringing children to Art Sparks, an art enthusiast, a proponent of education, a preservationist, a contemporary design fanatic or a person committed to civic enhancement, we ask for your support during the next phase of our existence.
The importance of the Speed Art Museum in our community cannot be overstated. We are charged with its growth and the need to constantly evolve in order to meet the needs of our present audience. The power of great art in a welcoming and open facility brings together people of diverse ages, ethnicities and interests to explore and express. We look forward to seeing you in a variety of places and sharing our progress with you!
Charles L. Venable, Ph.D. is the Director and CEO of the University of Louisville’s Speed Art Museum.