Plagued by chronic leakage problems, the venerable Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art expects to begin $15 million in state-financed roof and exterior renovations, probably next fall.
Privately funded interior work at the same time likely will require temporary closing of some galleries, probably on a rotating basis.
"We will not be closing the museum," director and CEO Susan Lubowsky Talbott said Tuesday.
The state allocation is money that once was earmarked for the museum's planned expansion into the former Hartford Times building nearby. That expansion plan was dropped, and the museum is focusing on renovations and exhibits.
The museum already is seeking donors to finance $200,000 in additional renovations to its galleries, some with water stains and badly worn carpeting.
"It is not a high-ticket thing, but we have to raise it," Talbott said. "We don't have it."
The renovation work is expected to take 18 to 24 months. When done, the expectation is "a dry museum with dazzling galleries," she said.
While work is being done, galleries that remain open will feature art from the museum's permanent collection. But Talbott said the museum already is developing plans for a special exhibit to be shown during the work that should be "even more exciting than normal."
The planned interior and exterior work will cover most but not all of the museum's physical plant problems. Still to be addressed is another leakage problem, expected to cost less than $1 million. The institution also is seeking donors for that work.
Given the state of the economy, Talbott said, the museum was fortunate not to have the additional property to maintain. "I think it would be a horrible burden if we had more real estate at the moment when we are trying fix the real estate we have."
So far, the downturn in the economy has not caused a drop in museum attendance, she said. Attendance is up, buoyed in part by a popular new exhibit of Gustav Stickley furniture and other furnishings that is drawing viewers from throughout the U. S. and Canada, she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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