Because of all the freed-up space, the museum expects to attract larger exhibitors and crowds. In the past, people have been turned away from special exhibits because of the large number of visitors. The new project will increase the museum's space by one-third, and accommodate 100,000 more visitors a year.
The museum's director, Larry Wheeler, has tried for eight years to secure the funding for the expansion. Leaders believe the recent donation of Rodin artwork was a big help in obtaining the additional $40 million commitment from state lawmakers. That brings the total public cost of the project to about $75 million.
"Major Rodin sculptures had to have a place to reside and breathe," said Wheeler. "We had plans for the building and now it was like, 'Let's get it built so we can receive this great gift.'"
Museum visitor Karen Madison said she believes a growing state deserves a growing museum.
"The more people exposed to different type of art, from outsider art to the Masters, whatever genre, whatever media, I think enriches people," said Madison.
Construction could start late this year, with the building opening in the fall of 2008.
Over the next three years, the museum will try and raise $50 million for an endowment. It will also try to raise $10 million over the next year to pay for landscaping, gardens and additional artwork around the new building.
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