Arts and Humanities
1:48 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

New Gift Accelerates Speed Museum Expansion

The Speed Art Museum began demolition today to prepare for the  construction phase of its $50 million renovation and expansion with the announcement of an additional gift from the family of Louisville philanthropist Christy Brown. The $18 million donation, the family’s largest, will accelerate the completion of all three phases of the master plan designed by Los Angeles-based firm wHY Architecture, including a new 9,500 square foot South Building to house a state-of-the-art theater. 

Renovations in the Speed’s current lower level, to house a Center for Kentucky Art, will also be completed in phase three.

Previous construction plans included an estimated three years to cover phases one and two of the renovation and expansion plan, with phase three to be completed within ten years. The Brown family's gift, plus decreases in projected labor and materials costs, mean all three phases can be completed by 2016.

The gift is in honor of the late Owsley Brown II, who chaired the museum’s building campaign before his death in 2011. It’s the largest gift ever from the family. The family’s gift will also help renovate a 5,600-square foot gallery in the Speed’s lower level special exhibits space, which will house a Center for Kentucky Art.

“Fine art, whether as an exquisite oil painting, an intricate sculpture, or even a spectacular new building, generates excitement, fosters education, and helps build family togetherness,” says capital campaign co-chair Brook Barzun, Brown’s daughter. “And it was my father’s dream to have a grand staircase which extends to the upper 1983 galleries and lower special exhibition galleries renovated and to be more open and inviting to visitors to the museum.”

Mayor Greg Fischer says the Brown family’s philanthropy has a significant influence on Vision Louisville, the city’s 25-year visioning process.  

“This project is a catalyst,” says Fischer. “It’s an inflection point as we continue on our city’s journey to become a city of ideas and of entrepreneurship, and arts and creativity and soul and heart are at the heart of making that happen.”

The previously-announced new 62,500 square foot North Building, which will feature a transparent exterior wall, will nearly double the museum's footprint. Overall, the museum will gain 75,000  square feet of new space in the expansion project, plus 79,600 square feet of renovated space and 135,000 square feet of landscape improvements.