The University of Montana plans to build the Montana Museum of Art and Culture's permanent home at the intersection of University and Arthur avenues, where the flagship says it "will serve as a gateway entrance to the UM campus."
Building this 11,500-square-foot center, the Montana Heritage Pavilion, would cost $6 million — all private donations — and require the sale and relocation of a century-old house. UM is now asking the state university system's Board of Regents to approve spending authority for the project.
Jeremy Canwell, the museum's curator of art and exhibitions coordinator, said Friday the new building “would be more centrally located in terms of the layout of campus."
“I think having the galleries in sort of a peripheral building at the north end of campus has been sort of a stopgap measure and not ideal in terms of accessibility,” Canwell said.
The museum currently exhibits tiny selections from its 11,000-item collection in gallery space located in the PAR-TV building's two galleries. Last month, it announced that a $5 million donation from the Payne Family would help fund a permanent on-campus home.
“I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what percentage of the collection (the new building will) allow us to show,” Canwell said, “but it’ll certainly allow us to be much more nimble and dynamic in terms of what we’re able to offer.”
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The museum is expected to begin operations in its new location by fiscal year 2023, and it's estimated to cost $140,000 per year to operate initially. “No state funds will be used in supporting the (operations and maintenance) costs,” UM’s request to the Board of Regents states.
The proposed site is where University Avenue intersects with Arthur Avenue and turns into a pedestrian walkway through campus, pointing straight towards the Oval and Main Hall. It's not yet clear how the new building will fit with this entryway, but in an Oct. 18 campus-wide email, vice president for operations and finance Paul Lasiter wrote that the intersection "has the potential to be an attractive campus entrance that appropriately showcases the splendor of our university to prospective students and their families."
While the new museum’s design and exact footprint isn’t yet known, UM says that the project will involve selling and relocating the Berry-Tremper House. This 1918 brick house northeast of the intersection hosted the Native American Studies department until 2010 and is now home to the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West.
Matthew Frank, a fellow in regional journalism there, wrote in an email that “we’re jazzed this project gives the region’s rich art and culture more prominence on campus. We’ll miss this old bungalow when the time comes to pack up and relocate, but the O’Connor Center’s work will continue no matter where we’re housed on campus.”
The Berry-Tremper house is a contributing element of the University of Montana Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. UM’s request stated that ”the building will be sold and moved according to guidance from the Board of Regents, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Missoula Historical Preservation Commission.”
The Board of Regents’ Budget, Administration and Audit Committee will discuss UM’s proposal at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in Bozeman. For a live stream of the meeting, visit mus.edu/board/ and click on “Meeting Agenda Logistical Information.”
Museum director H. Rafael Chacón was not available for comment Friday.