What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Art museum plans grand opening for park expansion

Posted October 31

Hank Willis Thomas' Ernest and Ruth sculptures at the NCMA Park.

— The North Carolina Museum of Art plans a public celebration Sunday for its newly opened park expansion, which includes new installations and gardens.

The project marks the completion of a two-year long plan to redesign, expand and transform the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.

“We undertook this innovative redesign project in the park to unify the museum campus – connecting the perception of the ’Park’ and the ‘Museum’ into a singular destination, with works of art and elements of design integrated into thoughtfully crafted experiences,” NCMA’s Dan Gottlieb, director of planning and design, said. “Our newly expanded Park distinguishes the NCMA as a regional cultural destination with beautifully designed spaces and endless possibilities to explore and engage with art in nature. I see it as a special gathering space for what I believe will be a broadly diversified audience.”

Some new features of the expanded park include the Ellipse, a manicured lawn surrounded by a 600-foot elliptical wooden bench. It is currently housing "Intrude," an exhibit featuring five giant inflatable bunnies.

The exhibit, which runs through Sunday, is among several art installations that will coincide with the park's focus as more than just home to traditional sculpture pieces.

There will be mix of temporary and permanent pieces, including a 26-foot-tall bronze tree sculpture by Giuseppe Penone that is currently on a long-term loan to the museum. In December, the park will welcome two large steel sculptures by New York-based artist Mark di Suvero as part of another long-term loan.

Artist Hank Willis Thomas' Ernest and Ruth sculptures, which are shaped like large cartoon speech bubbles, also double as benches. The sculptures are part of the museums permanent collection.

Gardens and history

The museum expansion also includes 20 wave gardens along the promenade and parking lots along Blue Ridge Road. More than 150,000 varieties of plants will create waves of color and texture. The Parterre Lawn and Garden, which connects the Ellipse and wave gardens to Blue Ridge Road, will also help add more green space for sculpture installations and events.

The grounds for the museum and park were previously home to various prison and military facilities. The museum opened in its original building in 1983. That building is not known as the East Building.

Part of the past remain integral to the new features of the park. A former prison boiler house was demolished, and its rubble was used as part of a sustainable water system.

“The NCMA Park is unique to this landscape and the social context from which it’s been created from a former prison site. Its land is highly degraded and its history is the antithesis of openness and creativity,” Gottlieb explains. “Evolving from almost 100 years of use for military and incarceration to an environmentally healthy, culturally accessible place to connect art and nature is the characteristic that differentiates it from other museums’ landscapes.”

Sunday's celebration is 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will include food trucks, pop-up art workshops and live music. Admission is free.

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