Worcester Art Museum Restores Historic Renaissance Court

WORCESTER, MASS., JUNE 4, 2001-Work is under way at the Worcester Art Museum to restore the Renaissance Court, home to the museum's treasured Antioch mosaics and the setting for seven decades of memorable city events.

With funding from its Centennial Campaign, the Museum will replace the roof over the Renaissance Court with a skylight, spilling natural light on its collection of Antioch mosaics. Nearly two decades ago, the Court's original skylight was covered when it showed signs of leaking. Worcester Art Museum will also install air conditioning units in the Renaissance Court and adjacent galleries to create a more comfortable year-round climate for museum-goers and for guests attending special events.

While much of the work takes place behind the scenes, the Renaissance Court and adjacent galleries on the first and second levels will be temporarily inaccessible between June 6 and Oct. 5, 2001. Museum visitors should plan to use the entrance on Lancaster Street or the handicap-accessible entrance on Tuckerman Street. Expanded off-street parking is available at both entrances. The Salisbury Street entrance will be open only to provide access to the Museum Shop.

While sections of the Museum are closed this summer, admission will be waived.

“We thank our visitors for their patience while improvements are made to the Renaissance Court and encourage them to take advantage of free admission to explore our American, contemporary, Precolumbian and print galleries,” said Museum Director James A. Welu. “In the fall, we will all celebrate a new and marvelous aesthetic experience in the Renaissance Court.”

Completion of the Renaissance Court Renovation Project is expected just in time for the opening of the Museum's major fall exhibition, Modernism and Abstraction: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Oct. 7, 2001.

Since its opening in 1933, the Renaissance Court has served as a cultural meeting place for the city and for Central New England, as a host to myriad performances and concerts, festive celebrations and parties, illuminating tours, demonstrations and educational programs. The Renaissance Court is the gateway to the Museum's extensive Asian and European collections and to the Chapter House, the first medieval building moved from Europe to the United States. The centerpiece of the Court is the Worcester Hunt mosaic, the exquisite floor unearthed in 1936 during the excavation of the ancient city of Antioch.

The renovation is made possible in part by a $750,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation, one of the nation's largest and most prestigious private foundations. The grant is contingent upon the Centennial Campaign reaching its $34 million goal by the end of December 2001.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.