The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

Plans to expand Ackland on hold

Museum focuses on endowment

Plans for what some refer to as Chapel Hill's "best kept secret" are moving in a new direction.

Previous drafts for a building expansion for the Ackland Art Museum, now in its 50th year, have been put on hold in lieu of efforts to raise a $10 million endowment.

"The new endowment allows us to create a stable financial base to support staff salaries for those people the Ackland trusts, cannot support and are essential to the work of the institution," said Amanda Hughes, director of external affairs for the Ackland.

Museum Director Emily Kass said the expansion has been in planning since about 2000, but is nowhere close to getting the support required.

"It had been going on for a long, long time and significant sources of support had not been identified," Kass said. "Some funds had been raised, to nowhere near the amount to be able to begin construction."

Hughes said the plans for expansion have not been shelved but instead put on the back burner while the museum focuses on more immediate goals.

"There's no timeline for the expansion of the Ackland," she said. "When we got a new director, she did a fierce inventory of where we were, what our building's current needs were and what our long-term needs were."

Kass, who took the position in 2006, said she recognizes the eventual need for an expanded space but felt that the museum should exhaust its current resources before taking on such a project.

Long-term, the goal is still to physically expand the museum, she said. But for now, there are already resources on campus, such as the Hanes Art Center, classrooms and off-site storage.

"We can expand our exhibitions and collection without having to invest in a building," Kass said. "This isn't going to last forever - it's a temporary solution - but it's the right one for now."

Carolyn Wood, assistant director for art and education at the museum, said she feels it is wise to focus on the more immediate needs of the museum before moving toward any goals of expansion.

"We had already been worried that if we were to get an expanded building that we'd be very short staffed," Wood said.

"Everything would be increased, and it seems much wiser to bring more experienced staff and points of view first to get people established before we start thinking about the bigger building."

Wood said that with the endowment comes recognition for the museum and an influx of fresh ideas.

"It's bringing new life - different people with new perspectives - into the Ackland Art Museum. We can increase the kinds of exhibitions we can do and our efficiency," she said.

"We spend much of our time trying to raise money to pay the staff we have and with this endowment we can create a huge foundation to build on."

Hughes said the endowment will help the Ackland expand its national prominence. Accessibility for students and the public in Chapel Hill is also a priority.

"I think that the vision for the future of the Ackland is as exciting as it's ever been," Hughes said.

"We have one of the most outstanding collections in the region . we can make this even more available."

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