MFA Director Wants To Welcome 'Broader Audience'

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The MFA's new Art of the Americas wing (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston)
The MFA's new Art of the Americas wing (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston)

As the Museum of Fine Arts prepares to open its highly anticipated Art of the Americas wing, Director Malcolm Rogers wants the city to feel at home in the museum's new addition.

"Something that I've been trying to do is make the museum more approachable through some original, some more popular, some controversial programming," Rogers said in a Morning Edition interview. "Key to all this is extending a welcome to a broader audience."

The Art of the Americas wing is the latest — and largest — of Rogers' attempts to attract visitors to the museum.

"I can honestly say we’re opening up the whole of our collections to the public."

Malcolm Rogers, MFA director

"The traditional museum building can look like a palace, or a bank building, or sometimes like a prison," Rogers said. "What I wanted was to create a building where people could glimpse works of art inside. But more important, perhaps, they could see people like themselves wandering around with their kids in strollers, in relaxed clothing, dispelling some of the mystique of what it's like to be in a museum building."

A $504 million addition, the new wing will reshape the museum in such a profound way it is being billed as "the new MFA."

"My passion is to bring things out of storage and to use them — to make sure that people see the treasures that we have," Rogers said. "We're displaying twice as many objects as we did in our former American galleries, and I can honestly say we're opening up the whole of our collections to the public."

The almost 200,000 square-foot wing will showcase over 5,000 works of art from all corners of the American continents.

"The whole concept of dealing with North, South and Central America is rare in America and yet, when you think of all the strands that go to make up American society today, isn't it appropriate that we look at the continent as a whole?" Rogers said.

The new wing did not come cheaply. Yet Rogers was able to keep fund-raising for the wing on track, even amidst a brutal recession.

"You have to have a vision that people believe in and is practically possible," Rogers said. "But it has to be a vision that expresses a really strong sense of mission, and then people will invest. And the truth is that philanthropists — through good times and bad times — are very consistent in their support of strong visions."


This program aired on November 11, 2010.

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Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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