In spite of a difficult economy, the Ball State University Museum of Art is celebrating a milestone anniversary with plans to expand both its collection and physical space.
The Museum of Art 75th Anniversary Gala will take place April 30, capping off a yearlong celebration that has brought a series of memorial lectures, special exhibits and other free events. Put on by the Ball State University Museum of Art Alliance, the gala celebrates both the anniversary of the opening of the Fine Arts Building — where the museum first began in 1936 — and the generosity of its donors, including the Ball family, which has contributed more than 4,500 works of art to the collection.
The History of the Museum
It was a group of local women who first came together to purchase and exhibit art in Muncie at the turn of the 20th century. "These women were the torchbearers of their time who really took hold of the community's artistic agenda," explained Peter Blume, museum director.
The works of art collected by the group were later moved by the Muncie Art Association to local libraries and high schools before finding a home in Ball State's North Quadrangle Library in the 1920s. Thanks in large part to gifts from the Ball family, the collection expanded into the 1930s and plans began for a new building to house it. The Fine Arts Building was dedicated on April 30, 1936, and with its completion, a new, permanent home for the Ball State Art Gallery was created.
In the decades that followed, the gallery's collection continued growing —housing new works of modern and contemporary art — under the stewardship of leaders such as School of Art chair Alice Nichols, who oversaw the gallery from 1948 to 1972, and Alain Joyaux, gallery director from 1983 to 2003. Joyaux's leadership was pivotal in cataloging the gallery's collection and creating endowment funds that allowed for the purchase of new works.
In 1991, the gallery officially became a museum, and an expansion from 2000 to 2002, adding more than 10,000 square feet to the facility, doubled the number of works the museum could display.
Expanding Into the Future
Nearly 10 years since its last renovation, the museum is raising funds and preparing for an expansion that will occupy the entire second floor of the Fine Arts Building. Four new galleries are expected to open in 2013, bringing the total exhibition space in the museum to 25,000 square feet — 44 percent more gallery space than the museum currently occupies. The plans are a challenge from David Owsley, grandson of museum benefactor Frank C. Ball. Owsley has indicated his intention to leave the majority of his art collection to the museum if an increased amount of gallery space is made available. Already, he has furnished the museum with more than 2,300 pieces from his personal collection, including works from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Blume said the coming expansion will enable the museum to showcase much more of its collection of Asian and ethnographic art. "By exhibiting more of it, you expand the understanding of the context in which these works of art were originally seen and used. The meaning behind the works of art will be better understood," he said.
The museum has a collection of nearly 11,000 works, but only 1,000 or so items can be displayed presently. The museum has photographed its collection in digital formats, and this database is gradually becoming available through Digital Images Delivered Online (DIDO), which is hosted on the Digital Media Repository of Bracken Library. In March, the museum unveiled its new Museum of Art Collection Portal, which allows visitors to use the interface of a 30-inch tabletop Microsoft Surface computer to search by artist, medium, period and subject.
Admission to the Ball State Museum of Art is free. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information about programs and exhibitions, visit the Museum of Art.
By Gail Werner, Media Relations Manager
The Museum of Art soon will undergo an expansion expected to occupy the entire second floor of the Fine Art Building. Four new galleries are expected to open in 2013.
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