Plans for new ODU art museum are taking shape

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A $35 million gift from Richard and Carolyn Barry will be
used to create the 24,000-square-foot museum. Courtesy ODU

Even though it’s still in the planning stages, a new art museum being built at Old Dominion University is creating quite a buzz in Hampton Roads.

The 24,000-square-foot museum, which has not been named, will include art donations from benefactors Richard and Carolyn Barry. The Barrys also will provide operating support through pledged annual gifts and a permanent endowment from their estates.

Richard Barry is a former Landmark Media Enterprises executive. Carolyn Barry serves on the Chrysler Museum of Art board of trustees.

The Barrys’ gift is valued at more than $35 million. It is the largest in the university’s history.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the university,” says Robert Wojtowicz, dean of the ODU graduate school. “We couldn’t be more pleased that the Barrys selected us. We are thrilled to have the collection.”

Two Barry art collections will be showcased at the museum: early modern American paintings (1900 to 1960) and Studio Art Glass works.

“There are nearly 60 paintings in the early modern American collection,” says Wojtowicz. The collection includes works by Arthur Carles, George Luks and Wolf Kahn.

The glass art collection contains work from top artists in the Studio Art Glass movement, which started in the 1960s. “The works range from mixed-media sculptures that are 13 feet high to small-table glass works,” says Wojtowicz. “The glass movement evolved on the Pacific Coast and has become a national phenomenon.”

The Barrys’ glass collection includes about 100 works from internationally renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly, Harvey Littleton and Lino Tagliapietra. ODU also will select some works from its existing collection to fill out the museum, Wojtowicz says.

The new museum will have at least four major galleries. “We are still refining the design of the building,” Wojtowicz says.

It will be constructed on the southeast corner of Hampton Boulevard and 43rd Street, across from the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Saunders + Crouse Architects is creating the initial concepts, which show a two-story building with room for expansion. The cost is still being determined.

One of the museum designs includes exterior cladding with a curving wall of glass. “It looks like a curtain of translucent glass,” says Wojtowicz. “They will be using a relatively new material that will allow diffused light into the interior. From the outside you can look in and discern shapes and the movement of people. It creates a visual metaphor for the collection inside.”

The museum will be near the university’s arts district, which includes art studios, a black box theater, an outer performance shell and an existing art gallery.

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