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The Daily Tar Heel

Area takes artful steps: Refurbished N.C. Museum of Art will be the highlight of a ?ourishing art scene in the Triangle

A new and improved N.C. Museum of Art will demonstrate that cultural growth in the Triangle is equally as robust as the region’s economic expansion.

The new museum is set to open this weekend. In addition to a new, beautiful building, it will house numerous new works that will make it one of the artistic centers of the Southeast.

The state deserves some of the praise for the success story of this museum.

Founded in 1947, it was the first major art museum collection in the nation created through state legislation and funding.

But much of the museum’s current success belongs to the museum’s director, Lawrence J. Wheeler.

His tenure has brought land acquisitions that have made the museum’s park the largest of any museum in the nation, at 164 acres.

Wheeler’s leadership has produced a wildly successful capital campaign and now a brand new, 127,000 square-foot home for the museum’s permanent collection.

The new one-story building complements the surrounding park well by staying as low to the ground as possible and allowing the maximum amount of natural light to pervade the galleries, noted Thomas Phifer, the principal architect of the new building.

Among a bevy of beautiful new acquisitions, 28 sculptures by Auguste Rodin stand out.

The museum now has the largest Rodin collection in the Southeast and one of the most impressive in America.

A bronze cast of Rodin’s most recognizable work, “The Thinker,” is also on loan to the museum until 2012.

Explosions of commerce, research and population have been marked characteristics of the Triangle.

Last year, the Census Bureau ranked the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area as one of the two fastest growing regions in the nation.

Beyond pure demographics, cultural growth cannot be left out of the equation.

The great strides made by the North Carolina Museum of Art are a welcome sign of the continued growth and vibrancy of one of the nation’s ascendant regions.

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