Education

University of Iowa eyeing fall construction start for new art museum

Ceremony groundbreaking booked for June

A rendering shows the proposed University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, which could begin construction this fall. (University of Iowa)
A rendering shows the proposed University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, which could begin construction this fall. (University of Iowa)
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IOWA CITY — With the University of Iowa close to its goal of raising half the $50 million needed to build its new Stanley Museum of Art, the institution has scheduled a ceremonial groundbreaking in June in hopes of beginning construction this fall.

The 63,000-square-foot art museum is planned to be built next to Gibson Square Park by the UI’s Main Library.

When complete, it will cap the university’s more-than-decade-long recovery from the 2008 flood, which affected more than 20 buildings, accounting for nearly a sixth of the campus.

As part of its rebuilding, the UI has erected a new Hancher Auditorium, Voxman School of Music and Visual Arts Building, and also is renovating spaces like Art Building West and the Iowa Memorial Union.

If construction for the museum begins on time this fall, officials project it will open in 2022. Once it’s here, the university will bring back much of its 15,000-piece collection — including some of its most famous works like Max Beckmann’s “Karneval,” Robert Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic, no. 126,” and Jackson Pollock’s “Mural.”

During its hiatus, the UI art museum has lost director Sean O-Harrow, who left to lead the Honolulu Museum of Art; and had two interim directors — Jim Leach, UI chair in public affairs and joint visiting professor, and Steve McGuire, director of the UI School of Art and Art History — before hiring a new director last summer.

Laura Lessing has served as UI Museum of Art director since July 31, 2018.

“It’s been a long wait, but in just a few years we will be able to bring the Stanley’s world-class collections home to support the education of UI students and to enrich the lives of people across our state,” Lessing said in a statement. “With its welcoming front porch, spacious lobby, art-filled galleries, and rooftop terraces, the new building will be an ideal gathering place for those who want to learn, socialize, relax, and enjoy themselves.”

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Having raised $20 million toward the project so far, the university still needs to raise $5 million to meet its goal of funding half of the $50 million price through donations.

More than 344 donors have given, including Richard and Mary Jo Stanley, of Muscatine, who in December 2017 committed $10 million. The Board of Regents honored that contribution in April 2018 by approving the Stanley Museum of Art name.

The museum has taken longer than the campus’ other flood-related projects because the Federal Emergency Management Agency refused to help fund its resurrection. In its absence, the UI art collection has found a home at several temporary locations, including the Iowa Memorial Union, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport and various museums around the globe. The Stanley museum also has offered traveling exhibitions across the state.

The museum’s original facility — erected closer to the other UI art buildings by the Iowa River — was completed in 1969, though the collection it housed dated to decades earlier, according to the university.

• Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

If you go:

What: UI Stanley Museum of Art ceremonial groundbreaking

When: 3 p.m. June 7

Where: Gibson Square Park, next to the UI Main Library, 125 W. Washington St., Iowa City

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