The National Museum of Women in Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., will undergo a full-scale renovation to bring its historic building more fully into the 21st century.
The $66 million plan, which involves closing the museum to the public for two years beginning in August, will expand galleries, establish a new research center, upgrade visitor amenities, and bring mechanical systems up to date. It is the institution’s first full renovation since 1987, when it opened to the public inside the 1908 Classical Revival building that is its home.
“This renovation will ensure that the museum continues to promote the contributions of women artists in ways that engage audiences and advocates of tomorrow,” NMWA director Susan Fisher Sterling said in a statement.
Among the additions to come with the project are a new orientation gallery to welcome visitors and lay out the museum’s mission; an education studio for hands-on workshops, conversations, and classes; new lighting, climate-control, and security systems; and renovated storage facilities for the museum’s 5,500 artworks. The roof of the building, which is designated as a national landmark, will also be redone.
“It is a majestic structure—timeless and beautiful,” Sandra Vicchio of the architectural firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates, which has been chosen to undertake the work, said in a statement. “To protect the collection and enable NMWA to educate and engage the world more effectively, we must upgrade the building’s envelope, improve the performance of its systems, and make better use of its interior space. Revitalizing the building is all about positioning the museum for a triumphant future.”
More than $50 million has been raised thus far for the project, which the museum says became gradually more expensive as a result of the pandemic.
The renovation was spearheaded by the late Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who founded the museum alongside her husband, Wallace, more than 30 years ago. Wilhelmina Holladay, who died in March at age 98, bought the building in 1983. It was later expanded with the purchase of a neighboring 5,300-square-foot property, which eventually became the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing. The wing opened in 1997, bringing the museum’s total footprint to more than 84,000 square feet.
The museum is home to a vital collection of work by female-identifying artists, including Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Frida Kahlo, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist, Amy Sherald, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.
“In the campaign’s quiet phase, donors and friends have stepped up in wonderful ways, putting us within sight of our campaign goal,” Winton S. Holladay, Wilhelmina’s daughter-in-law and the vice chair of the museum’s board, said in a statement. “With Billie’s passing, we are honored to carry her vision forward by completing this campaign and restoring our building for future generations.