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Gardner Museum Announces Opening Day And Programming

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Three of the Gardner's curators give a tour of the construction at the museum. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Three of the Gardner's curators give a tour of the construction at the museum. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has a hard deadline for its expansion and preservation project. Director Anne Hawley made the announcement Thursday before giving a tour of the new building.

“We feel like we're on this march to January 19th,” she said, “because not only is the building still under construction — although it’s on time, and on budget, I’m happy to report — but also, all the program dreams of the curatorial staff are now being rolled out.”

The curators were visibly excited at today’s event. Especially Peggy Burchenal, curator of education. She said she can’t wait to bring visiting school children into the museum’s new workshop studio. Students from the nearby Tobin School are already working on an installation project for the Gardner’s opening. The education studios have walls of glass, like much of the new wing, so visitors can peer in as they walk by.

This work, title TBD, is by Victoria Morton a Scottish artist, who will feature her first American museum solo exhibition at the Gardner Museum. (Courtesy of the Gardner Museum/George Bouret)
This work, title TBD, is by Victoria Morton a Scottish artist, who will feature her first American museum solo exhibition at the Gardner Museum. (Courtesy of the Gardner Museum/George Bouret)

The inaugural exhibition in the Gardner’s new Special Exhibition Gallery will feature work by Scottish painter Victoria Morton, who was an Artist-in-Residence at the museum in 2009. Hawley said she’s already working on pieces for the upcoming show.

“This is in the tradition of taking a risk on young artists and presenting young talent, and I think that’s going to be really fascinating for the audiences," Hawley said.

Along with music by the Claremont Piano Trio, the intimate Calderwood Performance Hall will be christened by a new piece of music by rising 30-year-old Scottish composer Helen Grime. Gardner Music Director Scott Nickrenz said she’s won “every award imaginable” and can’t wait to hear her music fill the cube-shaped performance space.

Nickrenz said the hall’s design is inspired by old Italian theaters, then added with a wink that the new wing's architect, Renzo Piano, is quite familiar with.

The Gardner’s new programming isn’t limited to the interior of the building. A Landscape Residency Fellowship has been created, and Curator Charles Walheim will oversee the work of an emerging design artist through the summer of 2012.

Also, Italian artist Stefano Arienti is working on a site-specific work to hang on the exterior facade of the new building. Piano has fashioned a 36-by-16 foot space for outdoor exhibitions.

A side view of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's new wing, still under construction (Courtesy of the Gardner Museum/George Bouret)
A side view of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's new wing, still under construction (Courtesy of the Gardner Museum/George Bouret)

Hawley is particularly excited about what’s being called the Living Room. The room will be filled with comfortable couches and bookshelves, and represents a place where visitors can orient themselves and even sip a cup of afternoon tea.

Hawley said the Living Room, and the rest of the new building, is intended to carry on Isabella Stewart Gardner’s legacy, “ And so the whole feel is going to be a working space, but a domestic space, echoing the domesticity of Gardner’s creation.”

To be clear, the interior of the new building is still pretty raw. And there are funds to be raised. Of the $180 million needed to finance the new building, Hawley said there’s still about $40 million to go.

This program aired on May 12, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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