National Museum of Women in the Arts renovation to begin September 1, 2021

The National Museum of Women in Arts (NMWA), the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists, announced its plan for the comprehensive renovation of the museum’s historic building at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. State-of-the-art upgrades to the museum’s home, a 1908 Classical Revival structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will expand NMWA’s exhibition space and enhance its programming, strengthening its work for years to come. The National Museum of Women in the Arts renovation plan requires the building to close to the public beginning August 9, 2021. Construction will commence on September 1, 2021 and will be completed in approximately two years. 

The building’s first full renovation since 1987, the $66 million project will honor the structure’s history while improving its interior spaces, mechanical systems and exterior envelope. The long-planned updates include enlarged gallery space to showcase historic and contemporary artworks and installations; a new destination for researchers and education programs; and enhanced amenities and accessibility for visitors. Infrastructure and storage upgrades will bolster the long-term conservation and security of the museum’s collection of more than 5,500 works.

“From its home in the nation’s capital, NMWA has given deserved prominence to groundbreaking women artists of the past and present for nearly 35 years, but the goal of equity for women through excellence in the arts has yet to be achieved,” NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling said. “This renovation will ensure that the museum continues to promote the contributions of women artists in ways that engage audiences and advocates of tomorrow. Thanks to our founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband Wallace—whose bold and ambitious vision led them to collect art by women and create a museum for its permanent display—our building is the center of a worldwide movement that champions women in, and through, the arts.”  

Beginning in 2015, NMWA undertook a rigorous assessment of the historic building and created an extensive plan for renovations that apply recent advances in engineering, building codes and sustainability.

National Museum of Women in the Arts renovation project will include:

  • Transforming the building to provide easier access for all visitors, with upgraded technologies and amenities as well as improved ADA accessibility
  • Dedicating a new orientation gallery in the Great Hall that welcomes visitors, introduces the museum’s mission and tells stories of women artists
  • Renovating and enlarging galleries to accommodate historic and contemporary artworks and multifaceted installations
  • Creating a new Learning Commons that features a major exhibition gallery, a state-of-the-art Library and Research Center, Reading Room and an Education Studio for hands-on workshops, curated conversations and classes as well as flexible space for rehearsals and other museum events
  • Improving wireless and touch-screen technology in galleries, which will enhance visitors’ experiences and learning opportunities with additional connectivity
  • Updating the Great Hall and Mezzanine to preserve these iconic spaces while improving their functionality for museum events and facility rentals
  • Installing new lighting, climate control and security technology to support long-term conservation of the art and the overall comfort of visitors
  • Enhancing collection storage space to store art more efficiently and care for works of art more effectively
  • Improving signage to provide better wayfinding and easy-to-follow pathways throughout the museum
  • Restoring the roof, historic cornice and the building exterior in accordance with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office.

About the Historic Building

Designed by the architecture firm Wood, Donn & Deming, the museum’s Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1908 as a temple for the Masons, an organization that did not allow women members. The 78,810-square-foot main building is listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior façade incorporates Tuscan and Mediterranean design elements in addition to Masonic symbolism.

In 1983, Wilhelmina and Wallace Holladay purchased the property to establish a museum dedicated to women artists. The building was refurbished in accordance with the highest design, museum and security standards. After the extensive renovations, which won numerous architectural awards, the National Museum of Women in the Arts opened to the public on April 7, 1987. In 1993, the museum purchased 5,300 square feet of adjacent property, and, following further renovation, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing opened in 1997, making the entire facility 84,110 square feet.

About the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs and online content, the museum inspires dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today.

The collections highlight painting, sculpture, photography and video by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist, Amy Sherald and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.

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