Grand Reopening of National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, on October 21

Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Grand Reopening of National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, on October 21

On October 21, 2023, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) will reopen after more than two years to unveil its highly anticipated top-to-bottom renovation.

he historic building’s transformation will be highlighted by immersive exhibitions showcasing powerful works by contemporary women artists and a bold thematic reimagining of its stellar collection of international art spanning six centuries. The world’s first major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists, NMWA has expanded and enhanced the visitor experience at its home at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C., with new exhibition spaces, enlarged public programming areas, enhanced amenities and increased accessibility.

“This expansive transformation heralds a new era for the National Museum of Women in the Arts,” said Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “Our building is the flagship for our mission, which resonates today more than ever. NMWA’s renovation—made possible thanks to extraordinary donors and dedicated staff members—brings new possibilities for dynamic exhibitions, programs and connections. This venture springs from our work championing gender equity through the arts.”

NMWA’s $67.5 million project, designed by Baltimore-based architectural firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates, is the museum’s first full renovation since opening in 1987. It honors the legacy of the 1908 Classical Revival structure while improving its façade, interior spaces and infrastructure.

“As an architect, I believe the building plan should first and foremost support the mission of the institution,” said lead architect Sandra Parsons Vicchio. “Through a close collaboration with the museum’s leadership and staff, our design brings NMWA’s mission to life in this stately historic structure. We focused on increased accessibility, greater flexibility to exhibit works of all types and sizes, seamlessly integrated technical capabilities for everything from digital artworks to interactive programming, and spaces to inspire and delight artists and visitors. At the end of the day, this renovation is about the art and the people.”

The team restored the roof and grand brick-and-limestone exterior in accordance with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and made updates to the Great Hall and mezzanine, preserving the iconic spaces while improving functionality for art displays, programs and events. Gallery spaces are enlarged by more than 15%, offering curators more creative flexibility. Structural supports concealed above ceilings and within gallery walls can accommodate the size and weight of monumental sculptures. The galleries’ new layout offers both broad vistas and intimate niches to highlight works of different scales.

A new Learning Commons features an exhibition gallery, the Library and Research Center with a reading room open to the public, and a Studio that provides flexible space to host varied events, including hands-on workshops, open studio sessions and curated conversations. The Performance Hall is upgraded with new furnishings and state-of-the-art technology to enhance presentation of talks, films and performances.

Less visible but significant infrastructure updates aim to provide an enjoyable experience for all visitors, including accessibility improvements in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new amenities and upgraded technologies. Enhanced wireless and interactive connectivity in the galleries will enrich visitors’ experiences and learning opportunities. Upgrades to collections storage, lighting, climate control and security technology support long-term art conservation along with energy efficiency. While not visible to the public, the art storage facility and institutional archive will enhance NMWA’s ability to care for its current collection and provide room to grow in the future. New passenger elevators support movement through the building for all visitors.

Image : Collection galleries at the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo by Jennifer Hughes, courtesy of NMWA

Stephanie Cime

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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