It only took Rev. Alfred R. Shands III, the Speed Art Museum’s longest serving board member, a few but powerful words to describe the first time he stumbled upon an art museum as a young boy. “It was an inspired encounter,” he reminisced in front of an intimate crowd Friday evening. As the Speed Art Museum kicked off its expansion project with a special groundbreaking ceremony during its last opening weekend, it was the encounters like that of Shands’ that were truly celebrated.
In front of a warm crowd of the Speed's board members, trustees, staff members, and patrons, Mayor Greg Fischer, Councilman David James (Dem., 6th Dist.), Speed board chair Todd Lowe, wHY Architecture principal Kulapat Yantrasast, and former Speed executive director Dr. Charles L. Venable applauded the Speed’s $50 million dollar expansion project and what this new development will mean for the city of Louisville. “Today, the Speed Art Museum stands poised to take the next and most decisive step in thousands of lives,” declared Shands.
Reopening in late 2015, the Speed will include two new buildings – a north building and a new building on the south of the current structure - and other landscape improvements around the University of Louisville campus. Funded by the largest fundraising effort for the arts in the city of Louisville, the Speed’s expansion project is debt-free and is also LEED-certified, which ensures sustainable site development. The Speed will also create 400 jobs during its construction.
Mayor Greg Fischer praised the museum’s expansion project, describing the development as a significant factor in the growth of the city of Louisville. “It’s breathtaking what’s happening here. It’s a big deal for the city on how this is all coming together - showcasing not just education, but art, our environment, [and] our parks all together,” he declared. “It’s a great day to announce this and be proud as a Louisvillian.”
With performances by the Sandpaper Dolls, Jory and Patrick Hutchens, and the UL Drum Line, the ceremony was a true celebration of the arts. But it was the 'inspired encounter' that Shands described that was truly commemorated. As the ceremonial groundbreaking begun, it became clear that the event's attendees were celebrating more than just the museum's physical expansion. Envisioning the museum’s future impact on the city, the crowd also celebrated the inspired encounters that they hope the Speed will provide for years to come.
Photo: Kristen Hamilton