Families can explore the long-anticipated East Building of the Saint Louis Art Museum when it opens to the public for the first time on Saturday, June 29.
The East Building, designed by David Chipperfield, is a contemporary counterpart to the museum's neo-classical 1904 building. The new space features floor-to-ceiling windows, 23 large panels of dark polished concrete with highlights of Missouri River aggregates. The East Building increases the museum's gallery and public space by 30 percent and will house 21 new galleries featuring 230 works from the permanent collection. The 200,000-square-foot expansion and the renovation of the 1904 building is allowing hundreds of pieces to be put back on display that have been in storage for at least 20 years.
Sherri Williams, associate educator at the museum, is excited to explore the new pieces on display with families and children. Mummies, arms and armor have traditionally been favorite pieces with families, she said, and the museum will now have a much larger selection of objects on view because of the expansion.
The East Building will primarily house modern contemporary art, Williams said, but there will also be an Ancient Greek Gallery and an Ancient Roman Gallery, which are also popular with families. Because the collection will be more stable, she said, families can look forward to additional resources, including scavenger hunts and family guides, to help them teach their children about art.
"If you love history, if you love culture ... the museum can accommodate that because it's all tied up in the collection," Williams said. "We're taking you from Ancient Egypt to 2011 modern American art. There is a little bit for everybody here."
In addition to the permanent collections, several exhibitions will open concurrently with the East Building. These exhibits include "Postwar German Art in the Collection," "A New View: Contemporary Art," "Yoko Ono: Wish Tree" and "Encounters Along the Missouri River: The 1858 Sketchbooks of Carl Ferdinand Wimar." A new sculpture, Andy Goldsworthy's Stone Sea, will also be unveiled during the grand opening.
In addition to gallery space, the East Building is home to a large meeting and classroom space, said Sherri Williams, associate educator at Saint Louis Art Museum. A far cry from the old basement classrooms, the new rooms have large windows and access to a new outdoor sculpture terrace.
While the museum's Sunday Family Programs will continue to be offered in the galleries, the classrooms will be home for special kids programming. Classes are currently designed for children ages 3 to 10, Williams said they are looking into additional programming for teens. "We're trying to bridge that gap between the 10-year-old and the 20-year-old," she said. A Teen Arts Council has been created, and a teen animation workshop will be offered in early August.
The East Building is also home to the new Panorama Restaurant. An enlarged cafe will also be available across from the gift shop.
Grand Opening Schedule Saint Louis Art Museum has planned a Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30. The event kicks off with a ribbon-cutting celebration at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday with World of Art Outdoor Activities (hands-on art projects, performances and food booths in the east parking lot) available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. An Opening Night Celebration is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. with live music and performances inside and outside the museum. On Sunday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the World of Art Outdoor Activities will be offered from noon to 5 p.m.
The museum is currently closed through June 28.
The Saint Louis Art Museum is located at One Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63110. Call 314-721-0072. Admission is free.
Photos courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum. Top photo of East Building exterior by Jacob Sharp. Bottom photo of the East Building interior by Wesley Law.