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Major expansion for O’Keeffe Museum

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Within three years, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum will expand on nearby property on Grant Avenue in Santa Fe, creating a kind of civic plaza devoted to the modernist’s life and work.

Part of the funding will come from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of up to $750,000 to create the new museum campus to showcase the largest collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world.

The “challenge” grant requires the museum, at 217 Johnson St., to raise about $3 million in new matching private and local government contributions, Director Cody Hartley said.

Fortunately, the museum already owns the property needed for the expansion. When it opened in 1997, the Burnett Foundation bought two properties bookending the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center on Grant. One of them houses its education annex; the other is used for office space.

“It gives us this great opportunity to unite the three sites, creating a kind of civic plaza to connect all the buildings,” Hartley said.

One of the buildings will be torn down, and the museum has plans to restore the other, he said. Both buildings are on the east side of Grant Avenue.

“We have been quietly working toward these goals for a long while now, in many ways, since the museum opened,” Hartley added.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum opened in 1997.

The expansion will give the museum, now roughly the size of a basketball court, space to display a permanent collection. It owns 140 of the artist’s paintings. It can display just 70 to 80, and it has about 10,000 other objects, such as O’Keeffe’s clothing, her paints, rocks, shells and collection of bones. Out-of-state visitors have sometimes complained when an exhibition of artists other than O’Keeffe limits the space.

“We’re really excited to rethink how we tell the story of Georgia O’Keeffe,” Hartley said. “It matters that we are based in New Mexico. It is central to O’Keeffe’s life. She is just part of a much larger story in this region.”

Nestled within Santa Fe’s magnet for collectors and creators of Native American art, the O’Keeffe Museum attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.

NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede announced the grants at the Santa Fe Museum on Tuesday. The O’Keeffe grant was one of $30.9 million in grants supporting 188 humanities projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has begun aligning grant spending with topics of American history and civics that tie into the coming 250th anniversary of U.S. independence.

About half of the new grant spending is earmarked for construction projects that expand the capacity of museums, historic sites, libraries, colleges and universities. Recipients run the gamut from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, to the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

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