Education

Long-awaited University of Iowa art museum going out for bid

Most of the UI's art collection has been on the road since 2008 flood

Gibson Square, at the corner of S. Madison Street and Burlington Street, will be the location for the new University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Gibson Square, at the corner of S. Madison Street and Burlington Street, will be the location for the new University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Five days after holding a ceremonial groundbreaking for its highly-anticipated Stanley Museum of Art, the University of Iowa issued a call Wednesday for contractors interested in bidding on the $36.5 million construction piece of the project.

In total, the long-awaited museum — which will provide a new home for the UI’s art collection after the former one was ravaged in the 2008 flood — is expected to cost about $50 million.

The university is using a traditional design-bid-build method for the 63,000-square-foot, three-story project — meaning it is bidding out the design and construction portions separately. Increasingly, the UI had been using a design-build process, which bids out the two portions as one.

Specifications made public Wednesday show the museum’s usable space at 47,838 square feet — including underground parking, a visual classroom, a three-story lightwell, visible storage, an art lounge, two outdoor terraces and 16,500 square feet of gallery space.

The museum will sit adjacent the UI Main Library at 125 W. Washington St., next to Gibson Square Park. Though it will lie parallel to the nearby Iowa River, the museum will rise above the 500-year flood plain.

In selecting the campus-owned site, UI officials said they hoped to save Gibson Square Park which would “serve as our front yard” and display sculptures and hold concerts and performances. The specifications indicate more than half the park will be “disturbed” for construction, with more than a dozen trees or shrubs removed.

The UI campus master plan, last updated in 2006, recommends identifying “major existing landscape areas, such as Hubbard Park, Gibson Square, and the Pentacrest, as permanent and protected open space.”

The aim of doing so, according to the plan, is to “ensure that the quality of the landscape will be retained as the campus is further developed in the future.”

In an email Wednesday, UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said that “Gibson Square will be preserved as much as possible.”

The deadline for project bids is July 18. Although the university celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, officials said they plan to begin construction in the fall. If all goes as planned, the new museum will open in 2022 — allowing the UI once again to house its elaborate and diverse art collection, much of which has been traveling or kept off site since the 2008 flood.

Of the university’s more than 16,400-piece collection, over 10,800 works are housed at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport and more than 5,000 — mostly works on paper — remain on campus. The UI also offered traveling exhibits, a statewide collection sharing program and K-12 school programs, among other things.

The school programs have delivered art education to 84,500 students across Iowa since 2008, vising 21 counties, 32 towns and 57 schools or other venues in the 2018-19 school year, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communications.

The UI collection includes several high-profile works including Max Beckmann’s “Karneval,” Robert Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic, no. 126,” and Jackson Pollock’s “Mural.” The “Mural” has been seen by nearly 2 million people across the globe during its international tour of American and European museums.

The $50 million museum project cost is being funded through a mix of private support and bond financing. The university still needs to raise about $5 million to reach its goal of covering half the cost through donations. Its current fundraising total stands at $20.2 million, said Dana Larson, a spokeswoman for the UI Center for Advancement.

After the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the university’s request for help building a new museum on a safer site, administrators planned an $107 million project on private property downtown. But UI President Bruce Harreld scrapped that plan in hopes of trimming costs by finding an on-campus location, and the Board of Regents in June 2016 granted initial approval for the site adjacent to Gibson Square and the library.

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When complete, the museum will cap the UI’s long journey of recovery from the 2008 flood. It affected more than 20 buildings, accounting for nearly a sixth of the campus, and meant constructing a new Hancher Auditorium, Voxman School of Music and Visual Arts Building.

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

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