Frist Art Museum ArtQuest Unveils Major Renovation

(l-r) Gail Carr Williams, Ellen H. Martin, Anne Henderson (credit Tommy Lawson)

On Monday, January 29, the Frist Art Museum began a complete renovation of the Martin ArtQuest Gallery (MAQ). The sixteen-year-old hands-on art-making space serves as a premier destination for families, children, and school groups to explore art. Reopening on Thursday, May 24, the updated gallery features enhanced activities focused on creative collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. The innovative redesign brings fresh energy to the beloved resource, which to date has served nearly 1.5 million visitors of all abilities.

“The great success of the gallery is directly related to the abiding passion and generosity of Ellen Martin and the Martin Foundation, who from the very early planning stages of the Frist Art Museum played an integral part in the creation of this multigenerational and educational space,” says Frist Art Museum executive director Dr. Susan H. Edwards.

Upon opening in 2001, MAQ was at the forefront of museum education and became widely regarded as a leading interactive gallery.

The New MAQ brings dynamic new activities as well as old favorites housed in an inviting and refreshed space. Drawing, painting, printmaking, and other popular stations have returned, with improved functionality and variety. The exploration of the moving image now includes a large zoetrope, a shadow theater, and stop-motion animation. A 16-foot interactive wall composed of color-changing dials allows visitors to create large-scale designs using the full spectrum of colors.

Visitors are invited to contribute to a collaborative textile-weaving installation using a large six-sided grid. A full-body digital experience transforms visitors into colors and shapes.

Activities that explore Frist Art Museum exhibitions, artists, and ideas include new opportunities for visitor participation, dialogue, and response.

In coming years, contemporary artists will be invited to design new interactive stations and to keep the space fresh and engaging.

The design responds to the prevalent cultural interest in hands-on learning as well as the increased popularity of shared learning and social media across generations. The changes also incorporate research findings from the four-year Family Learning in Interactive Galleries (FLING) research study funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, co-led by the Frist Art Museum, the Speed Museum (Louisville), and the High Museum of Art (Atlanta).

“Conversations with Frist Art Museum families revealed the value they placed on interactive galleries as safe places to relax and unwind while engaging in rich sensory activities that foster a love and understanding of art,” says Henderson. “We have based our approach on visitor feedback. MAQ’s fundamental concepts will remain consistent. Art-making stations will continue to emphasize fundamental principles of art, and activities will be based on original works of art that correspond with current exhibitions on view in our galleries.”

While MAQ’s physical footprint stays the same, the renovation has greatly expanded the functionality and flexibility of the existing space, allowing for clear sight lines. Accessibility for all visitors remains a core commitment in the renovation. To address environmental issues that may affect visitors, sound baffling has been added to reduce noise, and light has been increased throughout the gallery to enhance visibility.

The Grand Reopening on Thursday, May 24 featured a members-only ribbon-cutting and preview held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with Ellen H. Martin, who has championed MAQ as a special place for children and families. MAQ opened to the community at 3:00 p.m., with free admission to all galleries through the rest of the day.

The Frist Art Museum is deeply grateful to their generous Martin ArtQuest Gallery Benefactors Ellen H. Martin, Charles N. Martin, and the Martin Foundation; the Cal Turner Family Foundation; and The William Stamps Farish Fund. The Frist Foundation, the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, Corner Partnership, LLC, the William Stamps Farish Fund, and visitors of all ages contributed their financial support of the renovation, and The Frist Art Museum welcomes gifts of any amount to continue to support this renovation.

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. The Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways.

Frist Art Museum, located at 919 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203-3822 is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 10 am-5:30 pm Thursday and Friday: 10 am-9:00 pm (Martin ArtQuest closes at 5:30 pm) Saturday: 10 am-5:30 pm, and Sunday: 1:00-5:30 pm (Cafe opens at noon on Sunday). Call 615.244.3340 for more.

Current exhibitions continuing at the Frist include Nick Cave: Feat. (through June 24) and We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press, 1957–1968 (through October 14).

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