COLUMBUS, Ohio — Expanding a museum is a lengthy and costly process, one which requires a great deal of buy-in from the staff, patrons, board, and surrounding community. It’s easy to assume that longstanding institutions are self-sufficient, and to see their occasional expansions as a natural part of their growth, but in reality, it is a Herculean effort, with many considerations and potential risks — and, of course, a lot of gratification, delayed though it may be. In the case of the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA), the opening of a new two-story wing — which includes an 11,000-square-foot permanent gallery, a lower-level special exhibition space, a video gallery, and event facilities, among other amenities — represents the endgame of a 10-year process that was guided through every stage by a deeply considered set of overarching values.
According to Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes, those values boil down to sustainability, competitiveness, and enhanced public value. Features of the new wing reflect these priorities in myriad ways, including behind-the-scenes considerations such as the incorporation of an enclosed loading dock, which has become an industry standard. But mostly they focus on widening the scope of possibility for CMA. “Building a building was not the goal of the campaign,” says Maciejunes — a sentiment echoed by lead architect Michael Bongiorno, from the firm DesignGroup. In his introductory remarks at the press preview, Bongiorno declared, “It feels like Columbus is in a period of Renaissance,” and went on to outline the process of close communication with CMA in reimaging the role of the art museum in contemporary society.