Spencer Art Museum at Kansas University is making some big plans for the future, starting with a study by world-renowned architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.
The whole philosophy is to expand Spencer to become the “museum of the future,” said director Saralyn Reece Hardy.
And that means a shift in the mindset of what a museum should be.
“When you think of a Spencer Museum of the future, you think of a living, dynamic place,” Hardy said. “It’s not housing the objects only. It’s creating a space where art and people and ideas can come together in new ways.”
The museum recently hired Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to conduct an initial study of the museum and the ways an expansion can increase involvement with a variety of campus, community and statewide groups, she said. The firm, based out of New York, has worked on a wide range of well-known buildings, including the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Louvre in Paris. I.M. Pei was one of the group’s founders.
The $40,000 study is really a plan for changes, Hardy said, and after the study, which should be completed by the end of summer, the museum will start making decisions about how to implement those changes.
The result should continue to propel the Spencer into the upper echelons of college museums, she said.
“Spencer is clearly recognized as one of the top university museums,” she said. The changes “begin to put us at the very top of the list.”
An expansion will also allow Spencer to add pieces of art from its collection, which has nearly doubled to 36,000 since the museum opened in 1978.
Hardy said the museum has worked with the firm on other important goals for any changes, including incorporating the scenery and space of nearby Marvin Grove, as well as focusing on environmental sustainability.
She said the changes will make a positive impact on the community.
“It’s great for Lawrence and it’s great for KU,” she said.