Donor puts $10 million toward Hood learning center

by The Dartmouth Staff | 6/12/14 7:43am

A $10 million anonymous donation will support a new learning center at the Hood Museum of Art, the College announced Thursday. The center is part of the Hood’s major construction project that will begin in spring 2016. The Hood began planning its expansion in 2010 and chose New York architecture firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to lead the project in 2012.

The planned center will triple the rooms visiting classes can use to study its collections and incorporate new technology for students' study of art, according to a College press release. Classes currently use the Bernstein Study-Story facility, built in 1985.

The expansion will also allow the museum to display more of its 65,000-work collection, much of which currently resides in storage.

The Hopkins Center is also undergoing an expansion and renovation project, led by Portland, Oregon-based Boora Architects. Announced in 2012, the project will relocate off-site dance and ceramics studios to the building, increase multimedia and experimental theater, improve the art library and update building infrastructure.

The $10 million gift increases total funding for its renovation to $28 million, still shy of the total $50 million the museum hopes to raise. If it can secure the full funding amount, the Hood plans to expand its 39,000-square-foot building by 15,000 feet, which will include new gallery and teaching spaces.

New construction will alter the museum's entranceway, building over the current courtyard and bringing the museum's front door closer to the street. The addition should open by fall 2018.

In its current space, the Hood museum displays 1 percent of its total collection, while many national museums aim to display closer to 10 percent of their holdings, Hood director Michael Taylor said in a 2012 interview. The museum typically hosts one major exhibition a year and several smaller shows.

The $10 million donation follows a string of recent gifts from alumni to support academic programs and the arts on campus. Leon Black ’73, a former trustee, donated $48 million to construct the Black Family Visual Arts Center in 2012, and an anonymous family gave $100 million to fund academic initiatives and cross-disciplinary programs at the College this spring.

An anonymous family also donated $50 million to support the arts in 2009, the largest single gift to the College at the time.

Past outright sum donations to the Hood have funded specific projects including the digitization of the museum's Native American art collection and the preservation of the Orozco murals. Gifts to the museum support programs like "A Space For Dialogue," an ongoing project that supports student interns to curate themed exhibits using works in the Hood's collections.

Donors to the Hood can also fund an endowment, money that returns a yield each year. The Mellon Foundation recently funded an endowment to offer residencies to faculty members interested in incorporating the museum's collections into their teaching.

In a May interview with The Dartmouth, Hood director Michael Taylor said teaching value is a major consideration to the museum's acquisitions process. Professors are included on the museum’s acquisitions committee, which meets three times a year to assess the Hood’s collections and vote on adding acquisitions and gifts.

The Hood estimates that 1,500 faculty and students visit the Bernstein Study-Storage Center each year, viewing about 2,500 objects from the museum’s storage.

According to the Hood’s 2008-09 annual report, the most recent available, about 50 percent of the museum’s annual operating budget comes from the College, while the other half is raised by the museum’s director or comes from endowments. The College does not delineate specific purchases or contributions of new items to the Hood in its annual financial statements.