“Appalachia has always been diverse — from those who were indigenous to the region to all those who migrated [here] for one reason or another,” says Pamela Myers, executive director of Asheville Art Museum. She’s referring to Appalachia Now!, a consciously inclusive exhibit that last month launched the 54,000-square-foot space.
The massive, recently finished project involved historic preservation, renovation, and new construction. It now encompasses three structures — including the original Pack Library, circa 1926 — in one flowing, coherent hall, plus a rooftop sculpture terrace and the museum’s Perspective Café, both offering mountain views. The $24 million expansion added 70 percent more collection space to the facility.
The glass-clad west wing is brand-new construction, while the east wing was a total gut and restoration. Crucial infrastructure improvements were made, including adding state-of-the-art temperature control for storing and preserving artwork.
Approximately 12-16 shows will be planned per year, balanced between displays from the museum’s permanent collection, themed exhibits, and traveling installations. “We look at artists who have a connection to Southern Appalachia, and the dialogue between Southern Appalachia and American art in general … that mutual influence is at the root of how we develop exhibition ideas,” notes Myers.
Yes, completion took time, with the expected summer launch date segueing into November. “Anyone who has ever renovated a bathroom or kitchen in their house knows there are unforeseen circumstances … a construction project of this scale and complexity always has its moments,” says Myers. But the result, she says, is “an architecturally significant landmark … [that will] stand the test of time.”
Asheville Art Museum, 2 South Pack Square. For information on upcoming exhibitions, events, memberships, free days and programs, and details about the museum’s educational programs, see ashevilleart.org or call 828-253-3227. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. Closed Sundays. Appalachia Now! runs through Feb. 3.