The Chazen Museum of Art, with its expansion that opened to students yesterday, now sits at 86,000 square feet worth of fine artworks. The two buildings are connected by a bridge overlooking Library Mall.[/media-credit]

Since the groundbreaking ceremony of the Chazen Museum of Art’s expansion more than two and a half years ago, a diverse assortment of art lovers have anxiously awaited the opportunity to experience the new addition. This weekend marks the end of a long construction period, as the Chazen opens its doors to students, faculty and the community.

“We are ecstatic; the space is beautiful,” Susan Day, the publications and communications editor for the Chazen, said. “The collections look fantastic, and the addition gives us a number of new facilities to use.”

The new expansion is adding an entirely new dimension to the museum. In addition to a new auditorium and expanded museum store, the building has increased to an area of 86,000 square feet.

With this physical structure, space inside the museum is extensive. As a result of this available space, the museum can display 8 percent of its 20,000 piece collection as opposed to the original 4 percent with the Elvehjem Museum of Art, the original building.

The mastermind behind the layout is the architecture and urban design firm, Machado and Silvetti Associates. The company was chosen based on its original proposal, which blended elements of modernity with the aesthetic of Harry Weese (architect of the Elvehjem and the Humanities building).

Machado and Silvetti, in conjunction with Continuum Architects of Milwaukee, created many contemporary elements such as intricate stone work on the connecting bridge, limestone carpet and honeycomb tiles on the ceiling. The inclusion of sunroofs is also a unique design.

“They can be controlled or tilted to let in as much light as you would like, and it can follow the sun … there are some screen prints, like really ancient Japanese scrolls, that if you get too much light on them, they’ll be damaged,” Rayna Christman, a student ambassador for the opening, said.

The addition also includes an Object Study Room available to any museum visitors but specifically constructed for UW-Madison art students. The purpose behind this room is to allow visitors to request a closer glance at individual works of arts in a private and more reserved setting.

Over the course of the opening weekend, many events have been planned by the museum staff including a scavenger hunt, temporary exhibitions and tours. Throughout the weekend there will also be performances by students and community dance groups.

A humorous art film titled “Drama Queens” will also be screened over the course of the weekend. The film is a comical piece from the museum’s video collection about sculptures on a stage talking to each other and conveying gossip in the art world. With a new auditorium included in future plans for the expansion, the museum has more opportunities to showcase videos from their collection.

Exhibitions during opening weekend include a display on printmaking, a print collection by Leslie and Johanna Garfield and a compilation of work collected by Simona and Jerome Chazen, primary donors to the expansion of the museum.

The main attraction of the weekend is an exhibition of the paintings and watercolors by Sean Scully. His use of shapes and colors are a product of modern artwork and were highly valued by the Chazen museum staff. In fact, the architecture of the building was designed to allow large-scale paintings – such as Scully’s – to fit in the exhibition galleries.

“His paintings are usually so big they won’t fit through the door, so the entrances were specifically made so that big pieces of art can fit through the doorway,” Christman said of Scully’s work, which occupies an entire room of its own and spills out into another.

The museum is open all weekend and is free of admission for all visitors. According to Day, the event should be a rewarding experience for all lovers of art in Madison.

“One of the reasons we exist is that we think art is very important to people’s lives,” she said. “It’s important for people to study art …You can walk into the gallery and find something that speaks to you, which is incredibly valuable.”