For those of you who remember the old Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC), you recall a space that was heavily focused on retail and being a showcase for Kentucky folk art and fine crafts since 1981. After a 10-month closure, KMAC reopened in July 2016, after a $3 million redesign of their historic 150-year-old building at 715 W. Main St. Their new space is a combination of old meets new, with the original exposed brick walls juxtaposed against brand new windows and floors. This current redesign has streamlined their space, creating 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and 6,000 square feet of public area.
Upon entering through the front door made of corrugated steel, you notice immediately that you can see all the way through to the windows on the other end of the building, which showcase the waterfront. There is a large foyer, with different large art pieces punctuating the peripheral interior walls. A large visitor center is in the center of the floor, with the museum shop behind it and an education space at the end of the expanse. The first floor is open, airy and has a studio-type feel — everything out in the open, exposed to the visitors, in one large space. KMAC’s mission is to connect people to art and creative practice, and their new space, designed by Christoff:Fino Architects, allows them to fulfill that mission.
Executive Director and Chief Curator Aldy Milliken explains that this new space was more than four-and-a half years in the making — from concept to fundraising and implementation. He wanted to modify the perception of the museum, both in the way the visitor reacts to the space and the context of the art they want to present to the visitor.
Physically, the new museum is more open and flexible to the public. Art talks, movies, concerts, party rentals and educational activities all are on the schedule and can take place on any of the facility’s three floors. Before, the museum staff noticed that nobody ever went past the first floor; they never dove deeper into the permanent collection on other floors.
Now, all three floors invite guests to explore and use them, with special exhibitions on the second floor and parts of the permanent collection rotating on the third floor. With this new contemporary and clear space, the art can be better noticed and appreciated.
Artistically, this new vision will enable the museum to contextualize Kentucky in a national conversation about art. In the old museum, regional and local fine craft and folk art were featured. In the new museum, they will transition to a global scale that is not exclusively local but still very connected to local art and artists.
Let’s take a quick tour of what the new KMAC offers:
With beautiful zinc countertops, this sleek space is the hub of the museum. There, visitor services representatives can tell you about the day’s activities or guide you where to go in the museum. Admission is free until June 2017, thanks to generous underwriting by Delta Dental. Eventually, this space will have a small carry-out cafe, where you can get coffee or other light food items.
This shop is still an homage to all-things-handmade and has many innovative finds and gifts. There still are local and regional artists represented here with everything from jewelry to ceramics. It’s a great place to buy a gift for someone else or something for yourself — all with very reasonable price points.
The large maker’s space in the back is multi-functional and can be used for children’s activities and art camps, and, recently, they cleared away the furniture and held a concert in this area. It has a gorgeous view of the Ohio River and an outside patio that is soon to be renovated as well.
The second floor will be the home of all special exhibitions. Currently, they are presenting their inaugural special exhibition “Material Issue: Artists Thinking Through Material” on display through September 25, 2016. This show displays the work of 13 artists, all working in different mediums such as “pen and ink drawing, ceramics, woodworking, painting, textiles, film, video and found objects.”
The third floor houses KMAC’s permanent collection, which rotates through this space. The permanent collection showcases everything from classic folk art to modern pieces. In the back of this floor is a large education space, complete with a kiln and supplies. There will be an artist-in-residence program, as well as a private studio for that specific artist. Aldy is very focused on education and bringing young people into the arts, and this room is quite indicative of that goal.
Take a walk down Main Street, browse around this special new place and marvel at the fact that it’s right in our back yard!
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
KMAC Museum is located at 715 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202. Admission is free until June 2017. Memberships are $30 for students/young professionals, $50 for individual plus one, and $80 for a family. Members get 10% off all camps, workshops, and in the shop and cafe — as well as invitations to members’ only events. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; CLOSED on Mondays. Learn more on the website.
Photography by Christine Mueller Photography.
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