Bennington Museum reopens after dormant January and unveils updated building

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BENNINGTON -- The winter is cold and the winter is long. But after laying dormant for the last month the Bennington Museum opens its doors to art enthusiasts once again. Much like an opening flower, the museum will reveal a new internal color scheme designed to warm and invite guests into its newly refurbished lobby.

"(January) is an irreplaceable opportunity to do big stuff," museum executive director Robert Wolterstorff said. He added that it's important for the public to experience a serene feeling as they walk in the door.

The staff hopes that the new lobby will eliminate what had been a confusing experience of walking into the museum and not knowing where to go next, accordingt to Wolterstorff and museum marketing coordinator Susan Strano.

A welcome desk is now clearly visible as patrons walk in the door. Additionally, paintings and sculptures will adorn the room to bring people into the museum experience from the first second they step inside.

The goal of the remodeling was to increase space for painting display without expanding the footprint of the museum. This was achieved in a variety of ways, including the construction of new walls in the centers of certain rooms. The placing of the walls was done with an almost scientific precision. Wolterstorff worked with museum curator of collections Jamie Franklin to create maximum wall space while not choking off spaces in the rooms.

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Wolterstorff said he believes that the new layout and coloring will give the museum a more modern feel, while still maintaining the classical vibe worthy of the museum's 160-plus year history.

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The juxtaposition of the modern and the classical is a theme commonly found in the redone museum. Wolterstorff explained that this juxtaposition is a reflection of the cultural dichotomy that exists in Vermont between the concepts of "old New England" and the "undercurrent of progressivism."

"There's this wealth of more modern works that were created in the 1900s that hasn't been celebrated as much as it should be or could be," Strano said referencing a collection of works that the museum has in storage, but plans to bring out to fill some of the newly created spaces. These include "Deer Season," a painting by Rockwell Kent.

Another way the museum is creating space is by making better use of the rooms they already have. By taking the Wasp, a 1924 automobile, out of the Martin-Wasp gallery room and placing it in a larger room, what was previously thought to be a small gallery was actually a larger room with a giant piece in it, Wolterstorff said.

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The Martin-Wasp gallery will eventually house an exhibit dedicated to 1960s modernist paintings and the room to which the Wasp is moving will feature "The Gilded Age of Vermont: 1865-1929." The Wasp will be moved to a room previously occupied by one of the temporary exhibits, as the museum transitions from three concurrent special exhibits to two.

The Museum's changes will be completed in several stages finishing by the end of the summer.But the museum will remain open during this time.

Bennington Museum celebrates its re-opening with a free Community Day on Feb. 2. It is set to present a year filled with expanded exhibits, and events and programs. The 2013 calendar highlights works of artists in all media. In February, the museum will open the Annual Student Art Show, "Engage," "More Like You Than Not," "The Catamount in Bennington: Origins of the Mythology," and "Here is There, Recent Paintings of Mark W. Mulherrin."

Andrew Roiter may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Banner_arts


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