No one said science and art are mutually exclusive. In fact, combining the two can often lead to weird and awe-inspiring results. People today might not think that the 1980s spoke to the innovative nature of science and art in tandem. Often, when people think of the 1980s, they may think that the pinnacle of art and technological convergence was the scrunchie.
But the 1980s were more than that. They brought with them innovation. In 1982, physicians at the University of Utah School of Medicine celebrated the first successful implant of an artificial heart. As much success as the U was experiencing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the arts were also the subject of great expansion and notability. In 1988, plans for the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s new home were set into motion. Today the UMFA we all know and love is getting the most sophisticated scientific upgrades available, all for the sake of art.
To the layman undergraduate, the John and Marcia Price building — the museum’s current home — may not look like it’s in need of many (or any) renovations, but according to the UMFA’s website, “The building’s original insulating and vapor barrier systems allowed air loss that made it difficult and expensive to maintain the requisite humidity level.” Like art thieves and arsonists, high humidity can be devastating to museum collections. UMFA’s website continues: “The state-of-the-art technology we’re installing will protect the building that protects the artwork we collect and care for.”
It was a sad day in January when the UMFA closed its doors to the public, preparing to undergo a year of renovations. Many of the inspiring and provoking works of art have been relegated to the museum’s basement. While the museum is shuttered, the employees have dedicated themselves to the spirit of art by hosting countless events, tours and school programs. There’s still something to be said about an art museum with empty walls.
Few things make people more nostalgic than bracing for change. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, UMFA executive director Gretchen Dietrich said the hiatus is a time to “think about the future of the UMFA in a big and expansive way.… It’s a great moment to reevaluate and reassess everything.” The UMFA is no stranger to change and growth. Its humble roots trace back to a simple top-floor gallery in the John R. Park building on campus. Over the years, it grew into the flourishing hub of culture and art that it is today. What started out as three rooms soon increased to 800 pieces and then somehow over 17,000 pieces that the museum has acquired and houses currently. Additionally, the UMFA is known for hosting countless additional rotating exhibits.
From the Park building, the museum moved to a special gallery space close to the School of Art and Architecture in 1970. While there, the collection continued to grow; the social upheaval of the 1970s oozed into the corporate expansion of the 80s, and with it the expansion of art. As the collection expanded, plans began in 1988 for yet another home, leading to the design of the John and Marcia Price Building, which was dedicated and opened in 2000.
Although the vapor technology will not be obvious, the UMFA staff want to ensure that visitors still feel as though things are new and improved. “You’ll discover objects you haven’t seen in a while — or ever — and encounter familiar and favorite artworks in more meaningful ways,” the UMFA’s website promises its patrons.
Change is not always something to dread. “We want to accomplish two goals during this time: protect the building that protects the art and create brand new experiences for our visitors,” Dietrich said. The much-anticipated grand reopening of the museum will take place fall semester Aug. 26 2017.