In some ways, the temporary closing of the 20/21st Century Gallery at the Spencer Museum of Art will allow it to be better positioned for the 21st century.
That's the assessment of Saralyn Reece Hardy, the Kansas University museum's director for just over a year.
"For me, it's not an either/or situation," she says. "We should have one foot in tradition and one foot in experimentation."
Without giving specifics, Hardy says the new gallery - which closed recently and will open again in spring 2007 - will be better suited to display multimedia art involving technology.
"Some of the new forms of art, more of an interdisciplinary perspective, may be some representation of new moving image work that exists in time as well as in space," she says. "That's one of the exciting aspects of the installation - we hope to crate more changing in the gallery."
But, to Spencer purists, she says: "The new '20/21' will have old favorites and new surprises."
The Spencer exhibits about 5 percent of its total collection at any time. Hardy someday would like to add to the Spencer Museum building. That was a goal of the "KU First: Invest in Excellence" capital campaign by the KU Endowment Association, which ended in 2004, but the money was not collected.
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"There's still need for additional space," she says.
Hardy doesn't give specifics for the current renovations, and no artist renderings are available, a museum spokesman says.
Representatives from the Friends of the Spencer Museum of Art and faculty involved with the project were unavailable for comment last week.
Until the museum can look to an expansion project, it will focus on making renovations to its existing space. After the 20/21st Century Gallery, Hardy says the Renaissance and Medieval galleries are due for a facelift. Several KU students are working on proposals for those spaces this summer, she says.
"The idea," she says, "is to create a process of change, a process of continuity and of change. A museum like the Spencer is really steeped in tradition and also needs to be something that people consider relevant."