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Flood Toll: Rebuilding the University of Iowa Museum of Art

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University of Iowa Museum of Art’s “Mural,” 1943, by Jackson Pollock, as installed at the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA

The “Envisioning Committee,” appointed last year by the University of Iowa’s president, Sally Mason, to brainstorm about a new facility to replace its flood-ruined art museum, has just issued its final report, which calls for a new, bigger facility to be built, preferably “closer to main campus…for better integration into student life.”

The committee’s report states:

There is a great urgency to bring back the University’s premier collection and to house it in a building worthy of it and the community….Prior to the flood, the Museum of Art had approximately 75,000 square feet of space: approximately 25,000 square feet displayed the permanent collection; 20,000 square feet was temporary exhibition space to host special shows; 7,500 square feet was storage and preparation work space; 5,000 square feet was for classrooms; 5,000 square feet was retail space, including the Museum store and coffee bar; 5,000 square feet was office space, and 7,500 square feet was public space with an atrium used for events and gatherings.

The committee wants more space in the new facility, to allow for “expansion of the permanent collection” and “more space for temporary exhibitions.” It calls upon the university “to set the replacement of the Museum of Art as a high priority, on par with rebuilding all other parts of the damaged arts campus.”

Where the money for this will come from is anyone’s guess. In an article published before the final report was issued, B.A. Morelli of the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported:

Based on a similarly sized design [not the committee-recommended bigger facility] and current market and standards, a
new museum building could cost $40 million to $50 million, said Rod
Lehnertz
, director of UI planning, design and construction, who served
as a committee adviser.

One committee recommendation is a no-brainer:

The new facility must be built outside the 500-year flood plain, and beyond future flooding concerns.

Meanwhile, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, an hour’s drive away from the Iowa City university, continues to house the bulk of the displaced collection and to exhibit its highlights, now including a new temporary exhibition of prints.

A recently renovated temporary facility on campus keeps more than 500 works readily available to students, and a traveling exhibition organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art, Lil Picard and Counterculture New York (scroll down), will open on Apr. 20 at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery.

Pam White, who guided the university museum through the crisis caused by the 2008 flood of the Iowa River, remains as its interim director, but a search for a permanent director is in progress.

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New on-campus space for selected works from University of Iowa Museum of Art’s collection

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