With the completion of the West Building, one can see the entire museum park begin to take shape. The 164 acres are open to the public—for jogging, bicycling, dog walking and Frisbee throwing, to be sure—but also for contemplation of light and darkness inside Chris Drury's "The Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky" and watching a moonrise through Thomas Sayre's concentrically circular sculpture "Gyre." As Kate Dobbs Ariail tells us in this issue, the new facility is a bold effort to bring the collection into this outdoor environment, and vice versa.
And another startling thing about the new West Building is that the price of admission to see the treasures of the Kress collection and all the other works therein is the same price paid by bicyclists and picnickers out in the park: zero.
That nonprice of admission should be expected; after all, the artwork belongs to us, the people of North Carolina. But still, when one thinks of the damage done to one's bank account when visiting, say, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it still seems like an exceptional bargain.
Most American museums make do with less space; the medians are in the neighborhood of 33,000 square feet of exhibition space and 1.6 acres of land, according to statistics compiled by American Association of Museums. The N.C. Art Museum's 127,000-square-foot West Building includes 65,000 square feet of exhibition space, boosting the total exhibition footprint to 77,000 square feet, the better to house 730 works of state-owned art, including 108 new or rarely seen pieces. The expansion wing frees up space in the old building to devote to proper art storage as well as to allow multiple visiting shows to take place at once.
Visitors to the park this weekend will notice that a pond project is under way at the site of the old runoff ditch, which was previously a bit of an eyesore. The re-engineered pond will capture runoff and filter the water on its way to the Neuse River. The four-acre project is set to be completed by autumn.
This weekend's grand opening events, which follow a members' reception and preview Thursday and Friday, seem designed to exploit the multifarious possibilities of the museum and its environs. The permanent collection will be on view in the West Building, of course, and there are numerous other attractions in the older East Building, the Museum Park's outdoor theater and elsewhere. Here are some highlights (for a complete schedule, visit www.ncartmuseum.org).
Saturday, April 24
Throughout the day on the plaza stage, beginning at 11 a.m. with Orquesta GarDel and continuing with David Holt, Josh Goforth, the NCCU Jazz Ensemble, the native music act Southern Sun Drum and hip-hop performers The Beast. At 5:30 p.m., the evening show begins in the amphitheater with Carolina Brass, Tift Merritt, Les Primitifs du Futur and The Monitors. Fireworks will follow. (At press time, the travel plans of Les Primitifs Du Futur were uncertain, due to restrictions on air travel after the volcano eruption in Iceland.)
Site-specific dance by Dendy DanceTheater to take place throughout the day, wherever you are. A new piece by Carolina Ballet will premiere in the auditorium at noon.
Carolina Ballet artistic director Robert Weiss after the noon performance; N.C. Symphony conductor Grant Llewellyn at 1 p.m.; West Building architect Thomas Phifer, landscape architect Walt Havener, NCMA director Larry Wheeler and NCMA planner Dan Gottlieb.
Arts and crafts
Participatory stations will be in operation throughout the weekend at the Upper Lawn near the Park Theater and the Rodin Garden.
In the East Building's Education Wing, the celebrated Elsewhere Arts Collaborative of Greensboro has created an interactive "skewl" in which visitors can visit the cafeteria and avoid hall monitors.
In the entrance area of the East Building, there will be multiple light and sound installations produced by the Advanced Media Lab at the North Carolina State University College of Design. Among the attractions is an interactive projection that is triggered by an unseen interface device.
The Greensboro duo called Invisible will be on hand on the entrance level, too, with their famed analog drum machine in a piece called Rhythm 1001.
In the East Building, Wilmington film impresario Dan Brawley will present Tar Heel Shorties, one of the better-kept secrets of the weekend's activities. Drawing on his experience as well as the archives of the Cucalorus Film Festival, of which he is the longtime director, Brawley has assembled three programs of shorts—more than three hours total—produced over the past 15 years by North Carolina filmmakers. Among the offerings are older works by Triangle mainstays such as Francesca Talenti, Jim Haverkamp, Nicole Triche and William Noland. Among other gems, look for Panic Attack by former Durham and present Greensboro filmmaker Brett Ingram; What It Was Was Football, a 1996 effort from Duncan Brantley, who went on to pen the script that became the George Clooney film Leatherheads; and Scene 9 of 9, a legendary one-take film by Norwood Cheek and Dan Jameyfield, who in many ways is the founding figure of the Triangle's art film scene—even if he left for LA ages ago. Brawley also landed Plastic Bag, a recent effort by Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo), which features narration by Werner Herzog, of all people. Also on tap is a program of films that touch on suicide and the American Civil War (hopefully not together in the same film) by Erica Dunton, Aaron Schneider and Jim Taylor (Alexander Payne's long-time collaborator on Sideways and other scripts).
"Pignut" program (including Haverkamp, Cheek and Jameyfield, Brantley, Talenti and Triche): 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.; "Loblolly" program (including Ingram, Noland and Bahrani): noon and 3:45 p.m.; "Longleaf" program (Dunton, Taylor and Schneider): 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 25
Gospel music beginning at 10 a.m. with the Gospel Jubilators and MLK All Children's Choir. Beginning at noon, Les Primitifs du Futur, Charanga Carolina, to be followed by a musical finale in the amphitheater with UNC School of the Arts Orchestra, Duke Chapel Choir and the Choral Society Durham.
The Dendy dancers and the Carolina Ballet will reprise their Saturday work.
"Loblolly" program: noon.
"Longleaf" program: 1:30 p.m.
Open from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.