UM seeks approval to spend $10M in private money for art museum

2014-03-07T06:15:00Z 2014-10-19T08:07:42Z UM seeks approval to spend $10M in private money for art museumBy MARTIN KIDSTON of the Missoulian

With fundraising efforts racing forward, the University of Montana on Thursday asked the state Board of Regents for approval to expend $10 million in private money to construct a new Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

The request was one of many projects presented by state schools to regents at their meeting in Great Falls. The Montana University System admits the list is long, but the projects are greatly needed.

“The needs across the system are significant, the deferred maintenance is significant,” said Clayton Christian, commissioner of higher education. “We have to come up with a list that represents what we think is the right mix of investments for the state.”

When combined, the projects across the Montana University System represent $128 million in deferred maintenance needs, construction projects or requests to expend private funding for needed facilities.

Montana State University is requesting $28 million in state construction funds to renovate Romney Hall, $3.5 million to build the final phase of Hamilton Hall, and $6 million to expand its library.

UM is seeking $10 million in state funding to renovate the Clapp Science Building, and $10 million to construct an addition to the Music Building. Without the latter approval, the university’s music program risks losing national accreditation.

“Our music building is a very nice building, but it’s very old and is undersized for today’s number of students and quality of education,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “That came to light very pointedly in our recent accreditation visits. They were critical of our music facility, and rightly so.”

UM also is seeking state approval to expend up to $10 million in private funds to construct the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

The university holds in storage a vast collection of precious art. Yet it’s rarely displayed due to a lack of space, and it’s stored across campus in conditions poorly suited for priceless art.

“We’re embarking on a fundraising effort to build or buy some sort of structure that will serve as the MMAC,” Engstrom told regents. “There’s some exciting potential out there that could develop very quickly. We want the authority to go forward as we bring in the money.”

The list presented to regents includes $39 million in deferred maintenance projects, including $9 million at UM and MSU in disability access renovations.

Construction projects check in at $88 million, while schools are seeking authority to spend $20 million in private funds.

Christian said the list has been vetted time and again by university presidents, deans and other members of the MUS. He said it was reduced to the greatest and most pressing needs.

“We have a lot of needs,” Christian told the board. “This is our best recommendation to you all.”

Regents are expected to take action on the requests at their May meeting.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at

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(5) Comments

  1. Greg Strandberg
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    Greg Strandberg - March 07, 2014 2:20 pm
    I agree, the music building having the chance to lose the program its status is a much larger concern.
  2. Tracker
    Report Abuse
    Tracker - March 07, 2014 12:10 pm
    I enjoy The Missoulian, but I have noticed more of this half-a$$ed reporting lately.
    The headline says, and nothing in the first part of the story indicates anything more, that UM wants approval to spend $10 million in private money for a museum.
    Later, with zero explanation, the reporter reveals that the university needs $10 million of tax money to renovate the Clapp building. Why?
    Oh, and another $10 million in tax money to expand the music building. Where?
    The reporter focuses almost exclusively on the privately- funded museum with some undescribed fund-raising "racing forward." What?
    I am interested in these renovation/expansion plans and can easily be convinced that they are needed. I'm disappointed that the reporter couldn't be bothered to ask such very basic questions for answers.
  3. PJarvis
    Report Abuse
    PJarvis - March 07, 2014 9:21 am
    The Other Half of the Story:

    UM misses out on money after performance-based funding instated:

    Here about that in the Missoulian? Of course not.
  4. Salish
    Report Abuse
    Salish - March 07, 2014 6:36 am
    Rather than have so much priceless art permanently damaged or even destroyed, wouldn't it be better to loan it out to a place better able to preserve, and display it until our struggling university can take better care of it?
  5. Greg Strandberg
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    Greg Strandberg - March 07, 2014 1:02 am
    These are museums are great, and really attract the kind of people we want and need when it comes to business.

    But when we've got dropping enrollments, budget shortfalls, staff being laid off, and top administrators with salaries totally out of line with the rest of the community, well, we just can't do it.

    The music program, yes, but I'm afraid those paintings will have to stay in storage for a few more years or the budget will have to be shuffled about.

    All the students I listened to last week at the university were telling me about problems with student loan debt, not where to house great art.
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