RICHMOND, Ind. — For the first time in more than eight months, the Richmond Art Museum was open for visitors Tuesday, marking the official end of a long renovation project.

The smell of fresh paint lingering in the air offered a hint of the work that’s taken place since June. The $1.7 million project included lighting upgrades, new floors in some places, bathroom makeovers and, most importantly, an overhaul of the building’s heating and cooling system.

“The impetus for this was updating the museum in regards to climate control,” RAM Executive Director Shaun Dingwerth said. “We have an important permanent collection that we need to care for, but also, this will give us the ability to borrow works from other institutions.

“We need to maintain 70 degrees temperature and 50 percent humidity. That was something that the old system was not able to do.”

McGuire Hall’s 30-year-old system was given an overhaul that partially will pay off in future energy savings. The project was paid for entirely from private donations, 80 percent of which came from within Wayne County.

In addition to the new climate-control system, the museum’s four galleries have had their carpeted walls replaced with drywall and a professional museum rail system has been installed for hanging artwork. State-of-the-art LED lighting will allow the pieces to be displayed properly.

“Some objects require more lighting and others require less lighting, and now we have that ability,” Dingwerth said.

Rail systems also have been added to the museum’s halls, and the old display cases once there have been removed.

“We used to have a variety of show cases. We had really some old outdated fire equipment, old school bells, things that were just left over from really decades of how this building had been used,” Dingwerth said.

“Now we can hang a lot more art.”

McGuire Hall’s famous “Harry Potter”-style bathrooms have had a makeover to bring them in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Throughout this renovation, we really maintained the character of this WPA-style building. So even though we updated the bathrooms, we used subway tiles, we found new lighting that mimicked the old lighting and then of course we kept all the features like the terrazzo floors and the beautiful molding and the marble,” Dingwerth said.

While the work was underway, several pieces of the museum’s permanent collection were loaned to sites across the county, including several libraries and the Huddleston Farmhouse in Cambridge City.

Those works are making their way back into the building, but the experiment was so well received that a similar program likely will be used in the future.

“We got such positive feedback that we’re actually talking to a couple of the libraries about maybe something ongoing that we would rotate because obviously we want people to be able to see the collection,” Dingwerth said.

The project marks the completion of the museum’s current strategic plan, and it comes well ahead of schedule.

“With this renovation, we have completed our current strategic plan two years early,” Dingwerth said. “So we’re actually going to have a board retreat in March and we’re going to start our future planning.”

That likely will include more educational opportunities, finding ways to bring more people to the museum and looking for ideas in how to get the artwork and programs out into the community.

In the meantime, RAM’s 120th anniversary is coming up in June and there’s a new-look building to show off.

“We fully anticipate to have more celebrations down the road to have the public come and see the renovated space,” Dingwerth said.


Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, http://pinews.co/2sv6fDo


Information from: Palladium-Item, http://www.pal-item.com

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the (Richmond) Palladium-Item.