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Art museums with reasons to return

Courtesy Chrysler Museum of Art

After visiting a grand art museum, you may find that the atmosphere among your group has changed. It may be a little quieter, a little more reflective and a little calmer.

With art that wows us, these venues offer groups the rare opportunity to behold objects normally seen only in academic books and glossy magazines. Other invaluable items are new to our ongoing educations as human beings.

And now, we have another reason to drop in on these renowned venues. Already architectural masterpieces, the following museums have recently been renovated or have added additional space. A few are scheduled to reopen soon. With blueprints created by some of the world’s most famous architects, the new areas are described not simply as brick-and-mortar spaces but as wondrous, ethereal, even magical places to spend time.
So take a deep breath, exhale and enjoy.

Chrysler Museum of Art
Norfolk, Virginia
In April 2014, the Chrysler Museum of Art will be flying high with the help of two new wings.

Those wings will be home to the museum’s collection of American and European painting and sculpture and will provide 30 percent more gallery space for the Chrysler’s glass collection, considered one of the finest in the world. The museum also has galleries dedicated to photography, decorative arts and ancient and non-Western art.

The project is the latest phase of a capital campaign that includes the redesign and refurbishment of the museum’s 210,000-square-foot interior and the new Chrysler Museum Glass studio, which opened in 2011.

“Our building project is the latest component of the Chrysler’s ongoing commitment to providing visitors with experiences that delight, inspire and transform,” said Bill Hennessee, director. “We began by adopting free admission, by retraining our security staff as gallery hosts, by rethinking fundamentally the way we present and interpret our collections and by creating our dynamic Glass Studio. Now, our community and visitors to Norfolk will be able to enjoy our extraordinary collection in beautifully expanded and modernized galleries.”

The core of the Chrysler’s collection is from Walter Chrysler Jr., a member of one of this country’s most prominent industrial families; he was an avid art collector and donated thousands of objects to the museum from his private collection.

Groups that visit before the opening of the new wings can get fired up at the Glass Studio, which offers daily demonstrations Wednesday through Sunday; groups can also enjoy two historic homes that showcase American art and original furnishings.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
Biloxi, Mississippi
Construction of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum was underway in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“We began reconstruction in 2008 and are happy to have four of the five buildings that architect Frank Gehry designed now open,” said Denny Mecham, executive director.

The museum promotes the work of George Ohr, also known as the Mad Potter of Biloxi, and the art of the local culture.

“Both Gehry and Ohr are masters in their own right,” said Mecham. “This tribute to art and architecture in five complex structures surrounded by incredible trees is right on the water. The buildings are sculptures themselves.”

Those buildings include the Welcome Center, which houses the revolving work of crafters from across Mississippi; the IP Casino Resort Spa Exhibitions Gallery, with contemporary works from the 20th and 21st centuries; the Gallery of African American Art, home to George Ohr temporary exhibits; and the City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics.

The Knight Gallery, also referred to as “The Pods,” will open in the spring of 2014.

“With no windows, stainless-steel twists and no square walls, this is an incredible addition,” added Mecham.

The four-acre campus also includes the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center, a reconstruction of the house built by a freed slave after the Civil War.

“Pleasant Reed’s home was destroyed by Katrina,” said Mecham. “We were determined to continue to honor his legacy, and thanks to the fact we had his original plans, the home was rebuilt.”