Martin Museum of Art renovates facilities

The Martin Museum of Art is undergoing significant renovations to improve offerings to student artists, featured artists and the museum's accreditation. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

Baylor’s campus has undergone several significant changes and renovations over the past few years. Now, the Martin Museum of Art, located in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, is getting its own makeover.

According to Baylor’s webpage describing the project, The Martin Museum of Art closed to begin renovations in May of this year and is scheduled to reopen on September 28, 2018. Although the renovations started during the summer when most students were out of town, the buzz around the art building has been growing in anticipation of the new changes.

One graphic design student, Marble Falls senior Rachel Love, said the students are eager to see what opportunities the new renovations will offer students, faculty and outside artists.

“I could not be more excited,” Love said. “I am so excited to see what they’re doing. I am hoping that there is going to be more space and opportunity for art students and more exhibitions. That will draw more artists to Waco that we could feature in the museum.”

Allison Chew, director of the Martin Museum of Art, answered some of the students’ questions and shared about more exciting plans coming soon to the museum. Chew said the idea and conversation about renovations to the museum started before she assumed her role as director three years ago, but the planning began around two years ago. Beyond aesthetics, part of the reason renovations were considered necessary was for an accreditation process, Chew said.

“In terms of the museum world and community, there is an accrediting body called the American Alliance of Museums and we are working towards that accreditation,” Chew said. “There are certain things we need to do to meet standards.”

To meet those standards, several different elements of the Martin Museum of Art were in need of renovations and updates.

“For instance, we needed a new lighting system,” Chew said. “Ours was pretty old and falling apart so we were happy to put that to task and get a new lighting system. We are updating our walls and floors and storage space, just doing things so that we can better care for our collections and reach for higher caliber exhibitions for the students and community here.”

However, the Museum is in need of too many updates to complete the whole project in one fell swoop. The museum will undergo a series of three distinct phases of renovations, the first of which will be completed in September.

“Guests can see newer and improved quality of lighting,” Chew said. “They will see new walls, a new reception area, and a new entrance into the museum. We will have a secondary entrance now for easier access to the public.”

Other changes that visitors won’t be able to see, but that will help the Martin Museum of Art towards accreditation include improved storage and humidity control in the facilities. Chew estimates that the three phases will all be completed by next fall.

The Martin Museum of Art currently has a permanent collection of about 1500 pieces, Chew said. With the new renovations, the museum will be much more equipped to feature some of these works and exhibits, the first of which will highlight the works of John James Audobon.

The Martin Museum of Art is currently working with several outside institutions to pool a larger number of John James Audobon pieces for the exhibit. The museum is looking to feature pieces from his book “Birds of America.”

Due to the renovations, the museum will feature a few less exhibits this year than in years past, but will return to its normal seven to eight yearly exhibits once the renovation process is complete.