University of Iowa art museum sets attendance record, despite flood displacement

FEMA commitment to help restore the former building to pre-flood condition

Vanessa Miller
Published: December 16 2013 | 4:05 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:56 am in
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Despite being displaced by the Flood of 2008, the University of Iowa Museum of Art saw record attendance to its events, programs and exhibitions during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Museum officials this week announced that it drew 146,470 people last year – just beating the previous record of 146,466 in the 2011-2012 school year. The museum also “significantly increased its reach” by traveling across the state to bring art and education directly to residents.

Staff delivered educational programming to 1,182 people in senior living centers and to 18,465 K-12 students in Iowa, including 443 presentations to 739 classes in 49 locations in 18 communities. That tops the previous year’s reach to about 12,000 K-12 students, according to UI News Services.

The museum has had to get creative in engaging with audiences since losing its building, using temporary locations across campus and in other parts of the state to showcase its collection. More than 10,000 people have visited the museum’s outreach exhibitions in Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon, and more than 14,000 came to its 19th century French art exhibit in the Old Capital Museum.

Museum officials said they plan to continue outreach efforts in the coming year. And the UI is moving ahead with planning of a new Museum of Art facility, although there is no time table or cost estimate yet.

After the 2008 flooding, the museum’s former home on Riverside drive was deemed unsuitable for artwork. But the collection – which has nearly 12,500 objects valued at more than $500 million – was saved, and UI officials are looking to a public-private partnership to build it a new permanent home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied UI appeals for replacement funds to build a new art museum away from the river, forcing UI officials to explore other options for a new facility.

The UI did receive FEMA commitment to help restore the former Museum of Art building to its pre-flood condition, and UI leaders are planning that renovation. The art collection can’t be returned to the building for insurance reasons, but it will be used for another academic purpose in the future that has yet to be determined.

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