Portland Museum of Art to be closed for six weeks

From an article by Colin Ellis, for The Forecaster

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Museum of Art will close for about six weeks early in 2016 as it works to make its collection more accessible to patrons.

The work is part of a new strategic “vision” for the museum, which will close in mid-January 2016 and reopen in mid-February.

Museum Director Mark Bessire said the goal of the strategic plan is to “think about what we would look like in 20 years.” It emphasizes expansion, growth and a master plan for the institution’s downtown campus.

“The campus master plan will go into the hands of the new strategic planning committee, and they’ll start work at the beginning of next year,” Bessire said.

The closing is required for painting and deep cleaning that can’t be done while there is art on the walls. Bessire said it is easier to do it all at one time, so all the art will come down, and the entire building will be upgraded, with some physical changes. Then the collection will be reinstalled, with new signage and wall text.

Bessire said there will be some minor construction, but “nothing that would change the building drastically.” He said most of it will have to do with the visitor experience in the museum and viewing art. He said special city permitting is not necessary because nothing on the outside of the museum will change.

He said spaces are not adequate for the volume of membership activities the museum offers. “Our main mission is about art and culture,” Bessire said, “but we’re also moving into the notion of being much more of a community place.”

“The museum has to figure out how to adapt to changing conditions [and] keep thriving in the future,” he said.

He said the museum has recently spent a lot of time and resources restoring the Winslow Homer Studio in Scarborough, and he believes it is time “to focus back on the collection itself and the nuts and bolts of museum activities,” which is supporting and displaying the permanent collection.

“I love the way we show our collection, but it’s been shown in that manner for a long enough time,” Bessire said. “There’s not much energy or activity behind it because we don’t change it very much. It’s time for a real shakeup.”

He added the museum needs to adapt different kinds of displays to remain current: “Putting works next to each other that start conversations, not just putting a few works together because they were done in the 1920s,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

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