Fall 2021 Issue

State of the Art

Transformational expansion at the Muscarelle Museum of Art

By Leslie McCullough M.B.A. ’17

THE BIG PICTURE: The modernized and expanded museum, as portrayed in these artist’s renderings, will broaden the array of cultural offerings for the entire W&M community. Illustration: Pelli Clarke Pelli

Two William & Mary families, the Owenses and the Muscarelles, are taking the term “work of art” to a whole new level as they join the late pioneering philanthropist Martha Wren Briggs ’55 in helping to create a new vision for the future of art at the university.

In 2022, the university will break ground on an extensive expansion that will position the Muscarelle Museum of Art as a state-of-the-art regional venue for world-class exhibitions and robust academic programs. Designed by the renowned architectural firm of Pelli Clarke Pelli, the addition of 42,000 square feet will triple the size of the museum and expand the galleries, increase opportunities for research and offer more flexible spaces for teaching, studying and public events.

“This is truly an exciting time for the Muscarelle Museum of Art. I am elated for what the future holds as we continue to elevate the level and caliber of engagement and connection to the visual arts at William & Mary,” says David Brashear HON ’07, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art.

A leading gift by one of the university’s greatest benefactors, Martha Wren Briggs, was instrumental in making the museum expansion possible. Her enduring legacy includes a donation of more than $30 million to establish The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, with $20 million designated for the museum project. The center will be part of the William & Mary Arts Quarter, which will feature the expanded museum along with a renovated Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, a new music building and the renovation and expansion of Andrews Hall and facilities for art and art history.

The Owens family is helping to move the museum a critical step closer to reaching the funding needed to complete the project. Their new $1 million gift brings their commitment to the museum to $2 million since the start of the For the Bold campaign. This latest gift was provided by the Owens Foundation created by the late Carroll Owens Jr. ’62 and his wife, Patrisia “Patty” B. Owens ’62. The family hopes their gifts will inspire future generations to immerse themselves in the arts and provide an atmosphere in which students and the community as a whole can thrive. To date, the university has raised $27.7 million toward the project’s $34.5 million goal.

“My parents have been devoted to the Muscarelle Museum for the last two decades and I know my mom has never been more excited for the museum’s future than she is right now,” says Carrie Owens Garland ’90, chair of the museum expansion campaign committee. “The expanded museum will be transformational and energize our campus. It will make an incredible impact for students, faculty, alumni, community members and visitors for so many decades to come. It is a thrilling moment for William & Mary and for the broader arts community.”

The Owens Foundation has also contributed to the museum’s mission through several key late 19th-century and early 20th-century American art loans to the collection, including paintings by Thomas Cole, Robert Henri, Childe Hassam and Edward Potthast, among others. Patty has served as a founding member of the Muscarelle Museum of Art Foundation Board for nearly 20 years and Carrie has been a member of the board since 2013 and currently serves as the board’s vice chair.

In 2015, the expansion project also benefited from a $2.5 million commitment from Joe Muscarelle HON ’16 and Sharon Muscarelle HON ’16 as part of a family tradition of support. Joe Muscarelle’s parents, Joseph Muscarelle ’27 and Margaret Muscarelle, were instrumental in the establishment of the art museum.

“Joe and I are thrilled to be continuing our family’s support of William & Mary’s art museum, which was an important philanthropic project of Joe’s parents, Margaret and Joe Sr. They joined hands with a group of supporters and brought the museum to life in 1983. We are happy to be continuing the family legacy and are honored to help propel the museum into its next phase,” says Sharon, who joined the museum board in 2013 and serves as vice chair of the museum expansion campaign committee.

For the museum, the exciting additions include enhanced and expanded gallery spaces that will triple the exhibition capacity and an event hall with lecture seating for 200 and banquet seating for 100 people, as well as event catering space. A welcoming front courtyard for outdoor gatherings will transition into an open, light-filled atrium with a grand staircase to second-floor galleries and event seating for 80 people. The atrium will also feature an impressive entrance from the campus side of the building.

In addition, the new space will include seminar rooms for exploring and researching works of art, an open study/library room with movable partitions and much needed art storage and staff office space. From artist receptions to art history lectures and detailed object study, this new space will provide a wide range of opportunities for students and the community to engage directly with faculty and professionals from a variety of fields.

“The new space will serve as a laboratory grounded in hands-on experience and will invigorate an already dynamic arts culture on campus,” says Brashear. “The museum will play a critical role in presenting diverse ideas and experiences by encouraging the examination of complex issues through an artistic lens.”

Brashear continues, “I am so grateful to the Owens family and the Muscarelle family for their major commitments to our project. Without their support, and the support of many other committed donors who are helping to make this project a reality, we would not be looking toward such an amazing future. This support is critical to making the Muscarelle Museum of Art a premier place for the collection, preservation and presentation of compelling art to educate, inspire and engage the W&M community.”

While the museum itself is only 38 years old, William & Mary received its first gift of art in 1732. It was around this time that the university became the first in the U.S. to advance the study of art. Throughout the centuries, numerous gifts of art have been received by the university and dispersed throughout the campus. The art collection contains many treasures, including historically significant American and English colonial portraits as well as modern works by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe.

“As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Muscarelle Museum in 2023, we look forward to honoring all those who brought the museum to where we are today,” says Brashear. “With this exciting expansion, we will position the museum for another 40-plus years of cultural impact at William & Mary.”

To learn more about this project and the museum’s ongoing programs, visit muscarelle.org or contact David Brashear at 757-221-2701 or dmbrashear@wm.edu