UI Museum of Art celebrates 50th anniversary

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stanley Museum of Art, and staff and friends of the museum are looking ahead to the construction of a new permanent building for the museum collection.


Megan Conroy

The Stanley Museum of Art sign is seen outside of the IMU on Monday, January 14, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

As the UI Museum of Art celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019, employees and friends of the museum look back at its history and forward to the construction of a new facility to house the museum.

The museum has been without a permanent home since 2008, when the flood rendered the original building unusable. The museum is in the midst of a campaign to raise $25 million to fund the construction of a new home for the museum, museum Director Lauren Lessing said.

The new building is scheduled to open in 2022.

Will Downing, the president of the museum’s Members Council, said fundraising events for the 50th anniversary will include a black-tie awards dinner in April and a “Steins for Stanley” event at Big Grove Brewery.

“I think, in general, [the fundraising campaign] could be more widely known,” Downing said. “It’s been said the UI is fully recovered from the flood of 2008, but the museum is not included in that.”

Buffie Tucker, the vice chair of the advisory council, said maintaining visibility in the community is an important focus for the museum.

Megan Conroy
Painter Jackson Pollock’s work “Mural” is seen at the IMU on Monday, January 14, 2019. The Stanley Museum of Art is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“A lot of work has been done; it’s not that we’ve just been idle in the 10 years since the flood, but it takes a lot of people to keep it going,” Tucker said.

Lessing said there are parallels between the construction of the original museum building in 1969 and the current campaign for the new museum.

“Thousands of contributors really made it possible for us to build the [first] museum, and that’s the way the second campaign is going as well,” she said. “We have contributions large and small coming from all across the state of Iowa and beyond the state, from alumni and people who never went to the UI. Both buildings were assembled through a collective, broad process.”

While the 50th anniversary is a chance to raise funds for the building campaign, Lessing also seeks to create further connections between the museum and the campus and Iowa City community.

Lessing said she hopes to create a time capsule to bury at the new museum and plans to create a student advisory council to create student-friendly events at the museum.

“We envision this group as an opportunity for students to weigh in on events and educational programs that we could be running specifically for students,” Lessing said. “I don’t want to predetermine anything. I want to give students a lot of leeway to decide what kind of events they want to participate in and plan for themselves.”

Lessing said student focus has been an important aspect of the museum since its beginning.

“In the last 20 to 30 years, campus art museums have made a push to leverage their art across the curriculum — and that’s great — but the UI was doing that in the 1920s,” Lessing said. “We were among the first, if not the very first, university to think about teaching from objects — not just art and art history — but to teach subjects across the curriculum.”

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