Visitors get Sneak Peek at Chazen Museum Expansion

Chazen Museum of Art atrium

Visitors to the Chazen Museum enter the dramatic glass lobby.

From the soaring 4,200-square-foot lobby to the inviting conversation and contemplation spaces to the intimate movie theater, the Chazen Museum of Art expansion will truly offer something for everyone. On June 10, visitors got a sneak peek at the $43 million addition, which more than doubles the size of the existing museum located in the Conrad A. Elvehjem building. A second-floor bridge allows visitors to look all the way down the East Campus Gateway to Lake Mendota. From the bridge vantage point, the Chazen’s connection to, but distinction from the Gateway, is clear in the changing type and color of stone used in the mall walkway. The bridge is designed not to separate the two halves but rather to make the Chazen feel like one building.

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic westbound on University Avenue can see what’s happening at the Chazen on the outdoor video screen. A tour of the Chazen begins at the tree-line sculpture park, or, as museum director Russell Panczenko referred to it, “mini-Arboretum.”  A graceful rose and granite bench and the bronzed copper panels outside echo the architectural materials inside.

And inside is where the Chazen Museum shows off its magnificence and grandeur along with a comfortable accessibility and friendliness. For example, the 21-foot ceiling of the first-floor temporary gallery allows for exhibiting large installations like the art of Sean Scully, which will inaugurate the space. However, the dark wood ceiling warms the space, making it less intimidating.  For the first time, the Chazen will have a receiving area capable of handling such large-scale works.

Visitors walking through the galleries will feel the museum’s openness because no room is completely closed off. Curved skylights, open stairways and an abundance of windows brighten the galleries with natural but not harsh light.

The Chazen expansion also will include a number of classrooms, a conference room with a view of the mall and a larger gift shop. The Department of Art History and the museum’s offices will remain in the Elvehjem building.

The Chazen Museum of Art Grand Opening is scheduled for October 2011. All museum members will be invited to join the celebration. To be included on the guest list for these special events, simply become a member today. To see all the member benefits, visit