April 2, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SMITH CELEBRATES A NEW CHAPTER
IN ITS COMMITMENT TO THE ARTS WITH THE GRAND OPENING OF THE BROWN
FINE ARTS CENTER
Smith College Museum of
Art to Welcome the Public
Starting Sunday, April 27
Editor's note: An online press
kit about the Brown Fine Arts Center, including images and fact
sheets, can be found at www.smith.edu/bfac. To arrange media
interviews or tours, contact Laurie Fenlason at (413) 585-2190
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- With a series
of galas and dedications in late April, Smith College will celebrate
the completion of the Brown Fine Arts Center, a milestone in
the college's historic and celebrated commitment to the visual
Led by New York City-based Polshek Partnership Architects, the
two-year, $35-million renovation and expansion to the former
1972 building is the most extensive capital construction project
the college has ever undertaken.
Part of the building -- the art department and art library --
opened in September. The April 27 public reopening of the center's
third entity -- the Smith College Museum of Art -- marks the
culmination of the project. Numerous gala events are planned
for the public, special friends and donors and the Smith community.
At 11:45 a.m. Sunday, April 27, the public is invited to join
Northampton Mayor Mary Clare Higgins and Smith College President
Carol T. Christ for a brief, festive ribbon-cutting ceremony
dedicating the new facility.
Christ describes the completion of the center as a pivotal moment
for Smith, not only because of the enhanced facilities for students
and faculty, but for the greater opportunities the center creates
for inviting the public to share Smith's art resources.
"Smith is an excellent place to learn about art and art
history, largely because of the museum and the opportunities
it affords to see great works of art 'live,'" she explains.
"One of the purposes of a liberal arts education is to foster
a lifelong appreciation of the arts. And one of the best ways
to do that is via a museum like ours."
The fifth building to house the museum and art building since
Smith's founding in 1875, the new arts complex reflects the name
of three Smith alumnae from the Brown family of Houston who donated
$10 million for the project through The Brown Foundation, Inc.,
The architects, James S. Polshek and Susan T. Rodriguez, transformed
every element of the former building. According to Polshek and
Rodriguez, "The new Brown Fine Arts Center at Smith College
is built, to a large extent, on the skeletal framework of its
recent past. Its realization validates our belief that respect
for an institution's history and context can be reinforced by
an architecture of our time."
Exterior architectural features blend the building into its historically
rich setting through varied materials that work in color and
texture to present the façade as a series of visually
appealing planes. The design includes vast expanses of windows
and screens of delicate metal rods serving as sun filters, detailed
brick masonry and stair towers sheathed in zinc panel from Germany.
Although the architects expanded the
complex by 28 percent, they did so with only a minimal expansion
of the building's architectural footprint. Another notable feature
is the building's traditional brick, which approximates the size
and color of the complex's nearest neighbor, College Hall, the
Smith campus's first building.
From within the fine arts center, remarkable campus and street
vistas are highlighted by the new design. Typical of the building's
new aesthetic, Hillyer Art Library boasts a dramatic two-story
glass curtain wall revealing stunning views of the campus.
In the words of John Davis, Alice Pratt Brown Professor of
Art and a project principal, "the art department's studios
are absolute showpieces."
Museum of Art: New Works, Old Favorites,
Featuring expanded galleries,
significant new acquisitions, high-technology wiring, enhanced
visitor services and works of functional art, the Smith College
Museum of Art, closed to visitors for three years, will welcome
the public back on April 27 with a free, festive celebration
from 12 noon to 5 p.m.
Widely acknowledged as one of the best college art museums in
the country, the museum holds nearly 25,000 works of art, with
particular strength in 19th- and early 20th-century art. According
to Suzannah Fabing, director and chief curator, the museum was
redesigned to showcase its outstanding collection, to allow for
new teaching and collecting priorities and to meet the increased
expectations of today's visitors.
New amenities for museum-goers include an expanded museum shop,
a resource center and a café, now in the planning stages.
Other improvements include greatly expanded intern work areas
for the museum's outstanding student docent program, a 1,000-square-foot,
dedicated print gallery and many more flexible exhibit areas
to showcase smaller collections and special themes. The museum's
main space increased 35 percent to nearly 60,000 gross square
feet, enabling the museum, as Fabing notes, "to present
more Asian, African, Islamic and Latin American art than ever
Blurring the boundaries between form and function, the museum
reopens with newly installed public restrooms and a collection
of gallery benches, all of which are works of art.
Funded by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education and Kohler
Co., the artist-designed and -installed public restrooms are
a study in contrast: Ellen Driscoll's women's room is a serene
immersion into an underwater world, while the men's room by Sandy
Skoglund, an alumna of Smith, is a blizzard of black and white
images drawn from creation stories.
For seating in the museum galleries, visitors will rest upon
11 fine-art furniture benches. Individually created by award-winning
local and regional artists, the series of benches highlights
New England's strength in studio furniture making.
For the reopening, two new random-access digital audio tours
about the permanent collection have been developed by Smith students.
Other enhancements geared toward making the museum's art more
accessible include informative wall labels, small books on specific
pieces and other learning aids.
The museum's reopening exhibitions will feature old favorites
from Smith's celebrated American and western European collections
as well as many new and notable pieces, including works of African
and Asian art never before displayed at the museum. Exhibitions
mounted at the grand reopening will include "Silk in New
England Society, 1730-1930"; "Inside Nantucket: Eastman
Johnson Studies of New England Home Life"; "The Floating
World"; "Master Drawings, Part I"; and "African
Artistry: Insight and Imagination."
Open every day except Mondays and major holidays, the museum's
hours through May 25, 2003, are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
9-5; Wednesday, 9-9; Saturday, 9-5; Sunday, noon-5. For summer
hours, group tours, school tours or general information, call
(413) 585-2760. Admission is free. The Brown Fine Arts Center
is located at Elm Street and Bedford Terrace.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the United States.