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Hood Museum of Art Receives $10 Million for Renovations

An artist's rendering shows the planned renovation and expansion of the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, N.H.. (Courtesy Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects)

An artist's rendering shows the planned renovation and expansion of the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, N.H.. (Courtesy Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects)

Hanover — Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art announced Thursday that it had received an anonymous $10 million gift toward the building of a new Museum Learning Center that will become the cornerstone of a two-year renovation and expansion project.

Construction — during which the museum is expected to be closed for two years — is set to begin in the spring of 2016.

The expansion, which will add 15,000 square feet to the existing building, will increase the gallery space available for displaying the museum’s collection.

“It will be a huge benefit, because what visitors have experienced in the past is a limited range of the collection,” Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum, said. “Our collection has grown so much. We have 65,000 works of art, and we obviously can’t have all of that on display at once. But with the expansion, we can show a much larger percentage of it and display many of our masterpieces more permanently.”

The expansion will also add three classrooms that utilize digital technology. The Hood’s current space does not provide adequate learning space for faculty, students and visitors, Taylor said.

“We want every visitor, no matter how old or how young, to leave the museum with new forms of knowledge. I think that we’ve done a great job with that, but this expansion will be a game changer. For example, you will be able to take a work in our collection, like our [Mark] Rothko painting. With the new technology, you can show images on a screen of other images by Rothko and his contemporaries, or look at conservation treatments to understand how Rothko painted. Utilizing technology like that has been impossible in the museum, which was built in 1985. We’re recalibrating the Hood Museum for the 21st century.”

Construction plans were put on hold when former president Jim Yong Kim left the college in 2012. But Philip Hanlon, Dartmouth’s new president, has targeted the growth of the arts as a priority.

The museum’s “collection highlights include American and European prints, paintings and sculpture as well as important holdings of Native American, African, Aboriginal Australian and Melanesian art, and modern and contemporary art from around the world,” according to a news release.

“This gift gets to the heart of what Dartmouth does best: provide undergraduates with unparalleled opportunities for authentic, challenging, active learning experiences,” Hanlon said in the release. “The Hood Museum of Art is a model teaching museum, and the Museum Learning Center will expand its capacity to transform student lives. We’re deeply grateful for this donor’s inspired commitment to Dartmouth students and the arts.”

The museum will be closed during construction until its planned re-opening in 2018. But in the meantime, Taylor said, the museum plans to focus on public art, teaching with portions of their collection in the Dartmouth library and loaning works to other museums.

“We have a very loyal visitorship,” Taylor said. “It’s about 50,000 people a year. We’re hitting a very large audience, and we want to keep them involved.”

Thus far, the museum has collected $28 million toward its goal of $50 million. But Taylor feels confident that the museum will reach its goal in time to break ground in 2016.

“We’re in great shape, more than halfway to the total,” Taylor said. “We are actively fund-raising now. We expect to receive most of our donations from Dartmouth alumni, and especially the Hood’s Board of Trustees. We’re very confident we’re going to make the number.

“This is a momentous piece of history for the Hood,” Taylor added. This is the largest gift since we opened in 1985. It’s a great day for the arts in the Upper Valley.”