It won’t be much longer until art, design, creativity and culture will have a new, more visible home and showplace on the NC State University campus.
Construction on the new Gregg Museum of Art & Design continues near NC State’s iconic Belltower. The renovation of the historic chancellor’s residence and its grounds, and the addition of a new 15,000-square-foot wing for galleries and collections space, is slated to be finished in early 2017.
Several months later, once the collection is moved in and the opening exhibitions are mounted, the Gregg will reopen.
The facility represents an exciting public-private collaboration. Partners including NC State students and alumni, Wake County, and the City of Raleigh have joined with the university to make the project possible. In addition to their significant investment in the building itself, donors continue to establish endowments to support programs, exhibitions, acquisitions and other needs at the new facility, which is poised to broaden experiences for NC State students, faculty and staff, as well as the wider community.
“The Gregg is a place where objects can spark ideas, and it belongs to everyone,” said Roger Manley, the museum’s director and curator. “We invite all to visit, explore, find inspiration and then turn their own new ideas into action.”
As soon as the Gregg’s staff receives keys to the new building, it will move into offices upstairs and begin installing the inaugural exhibitions in the new galleries. The process will take some time because staff members will not only be moving art. They also will be setting up and calibrating new LED lighting fixtures, tweaking security systems, hiring additional staff and putting in place all of the museum’s new operating procedures.
Plans are to reopen to the public in summer 2017 with three exhibitions. The biggest of these, filling both the Norwood and Valeria Adams Gallery and the Randy and Susan Woodson Gallery, will be an exhibition of treasures from the Gregg’s permanent collection, accompanied by a printed catalogue featuring more than 450 objects.
This show will help introduce many members of the public to the Gregg Museum and its vast resources. The majority of NC State students currently on campus, for example, are unfamiliar with the museum because it closed in its former location in Talley Student Center – before that facility’s own major renovation and addition – in 2013.
Many longtime Raleigh residents also were never able to visit the former Gregg Museum due to difficulties locating it or parking nearby. The prominent, more accessible location at 1903 Hillsborough Street will eliminate those challenges and make a formerly “hidden gem” far less hidden.
In the restored rooms of the historic residence will be a dazzling display of Native American art from the collection of Drs. Norman and Gilda Greenberg of Durham. The couple has recently donated nearly 500 American Indian artifacts and artworks to the Gregg – one of the largest gifts in the museum’s history.
The third exhibition to inaugurate the new museum will be a series of major works by abstract painter Herb Jackson, who is probably the most significant living contemporary artist in the state. Jackson is a Raleigh native but has never had a solo museum show in his hometown.
These three shows will honor America’s native roots and the university’s links to cultures around the world, while reintroducing a museum that celebrates contemporary art, fine crafts, textiles, ceramics, industrial design, fashion, photography, ethnographic art and self-taught art. The museum’s collection spans cultures, disciplines and designs and includes more than 34,000 objects ranging from 19th-century Japanese color woodblock prints to antique North Carolina quilts. The collection soon will be more available to the university and broader community for teaching, learning, research and pure enjoyment.
The Gregg did not begin as a museum. In the late 1970s, university leadership sought to enhance NC State’s mission by acquiring and exhibiting art reflecting curricula, and the effort evolved into the Visual Arts Program. A support organization now known as the Friends of the Gregg began in 1983 and laid the foundation for the museum’s robust fundraising program.
The Visual Arts Center, the Gregg’s precursor, opened in Talley Student Center in 1992; it was designed to accommodate a collection of about 5,000 objects.
In 2007, the museum was renamed to honor John and Nancy Gregg, two of its most dedicated and beloved supporters. John, an alumnus of the College of Textiles, was a member of NC State’s Board of Trustees. Nancy was a leader in the Raleigh arts community and a longtime docent at the North Carolina Museum of Art. During their lives, the Greggs committed themselves fully to the realization of an outstanding campus museum collecting and exhibiting art and design.
The Board of Trustees in 2010 approved the ambitious plan to move the museum to the historic chancellor’s residence at the northeastern corner of campus. The elegant Georgian mansion housed NC State’s chancellors from 1928 until 2011, when Chancellor Randy Woodson and his wife, Susan, moved to The Point on Centennial Campus. The building was designed by renowned architect Hobart Upjohn, who was also responsible for some of the university’s most handsome buildings, including Brooks Hall (College of Design) and Thompson Hall (University Theatre and the Crafts Center).
In approving the relocation plan, the trustees required a museum campaign committee to raise $3.9 million of the project’s total projected cost of approximately $9.6 million from private donations before earth could be moved. In May 2013, the Gregg shifted its collection and offices from the second and third floors of Talley to a temporary space on West Campus. Groundbreaking officially took place in April 2015 at the site of its new permanent home.
Throughout the Gregg’s period without its own gallery space, the museum has held exhibitions in numerous locations, such as D.H. Hill Library and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
“Art allows us to explore core subjects in imaginative ways, and the Gregg collection seeks to compliment the coursework of every NC State student while promoting a better understanding of North Carolina history and culture – a better understanding of our world,” Chancellor Woodson said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re thankful for the growing philanthropy of alumni and friends who make opportunities like this possible. It’s moments like these where I’m humbled, truly humbled, by the generosity and dedication of others to improving our university and our community.”