Weisman releases designs for addition

The museum addition will allow for more works to be displayed and a place to eat.

Allie Winter

The University’s Weisman Art Museum is expanding its space.

To do so, the museum, which opened in November 1993, turned to its roots. Frank Gehry, the original architect of the facility, is on board again to create the building expansion.

Working with Gehry is what has set the museum apart. The Weisman was the first, and remains the only, art museum in the nation designed by Gehry.

The Weisman unveiled Gehry’s designs for the new project last Tuesday.

The 11,000-square-foot expansion will feature three new wings. Wing 1 is dubbed the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration in honor of the $2 million Target donated to fund it.

The temporary exhibition space will be located right next to the main entrance and provide an opportunity for artists and designers to work with people from the University and the community.

The 20,000 students who walk past the museum every day will get to share in the experience. The wing will include a large window, providing a look into the creative workspace. Museum director and chief curator Lyndel King looks forward to the new direction the museum is taking.

“We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen here, but we do know it’s going to be fun,” she said.

Wing 2 will add three new galleries, allowing the museum to exceed its normal limitations. The Weisman’s art collection tops off at about 20,000 pieces, but the facility can only display less than 100 works at a time. Gwen Sutter, associate administrator at the museum, looks forward to showing off the museum’s unseen art.

“So much of our collection is in storage right now,” she said. “People will finally be able to see them.”

The new wing provides more room for art and allows for longer shows. King expects the increase in art to channel an increase in student appreciation.

“Now, our pieces are gone after three months and you may never seem them again,” she said. “I think that when you see things numerous times you start to really understand them in a deep way.”

The three galleries will include the American Modernism Gallery, the Ceramics Gallery and the Works of Art on Paper and Photography Gallery.

Nic Baker, a senior architecture student, said he thinks the museum is one of Gehry’s best pieces of work and the expansion would be an improvement.

“The biggest problem with the place is its size. It’s really small,” Baker said. “Adding more gallery space would be a good idea.”

The third and final wing is all about the food. With a lifted setting overlooking the Mississippi River, the WAM Café will seat 40 and have a view of downtown Minneapolis.

And a riverside balcony doesn’t hurt, King said.

“People expect we have a place to eat,” she said. “It’s one of the most frequent questions we get.”

King said the museum called upon Gehry again because it would be difficult for any other architect to add on to the building.

“Our place looks like a giant piece of sculpture,” she said.

Construction of Gehry’s sculptural and original designs will begin at the end of this year with an expected opening in April 2009.

Representatives from Gehry Partners could not be reached for comment.