Columbus Museum of Art's New Face

Chris Gaitten
The Columbus Museum of Art's redesigned front lawn

On Tuesday morning, a worker took a blowtorch to Henry Moore’s sculpture on the front lawn of the Columbus Museum of Art. It was an act of completion rather than destruction though, as the art conservation specialist applied hot wax to protect the sculpture’s patina and finish. It was the last step in a redevelopment and renovation project that has spanned years and cost millions.

The cleaning and hot waxing of the museum’s outdoor sculptures—Moore’s “Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped,” Clement Meadmore’s “Out of There” and Julien Schnabel’s “Golem”—was made possible through a $50,000 grant from the Stockton Foundation. The larger refurbishment of CMA’s front lawn on Broad Street cost $1.6 million in funds from the city, which also contributed $2.1 million to COSI and $1.5 million to Franklin Park Conservatory according to a Dispatch article. The museum’s work was long overdue; the Broad Street steps were falling apart, says Nannette Maciejunes, CMA’s executive director.

Starting last September, construction crews quarantined the front lawn with temporary fencing and went to work, eventually redoing the steps and sidewalks, leveling the lawn, improving the grounds, adding more lighting and installing an irrigation system, according to Melissa Ferguson, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. The work took longer than expected because the number of construction projects underway exhausted the supply of stone for the steps. Now completed, the lawn is like a beautiful green carpet leading to the front door, Maciejunes says, and the lights can create washes of different color across the building’s façade.

An eastward view of the entrance; photo by Chris Gaitten

The Broad Street redevelopment was part of CMA’s years-long Art Matters capital campaign, Maciejunes says, which included the building of the new Margaret M. Walter Wing (the construction of which was completed in October of 2015 after tearing up the museum’s front lawn as well). Maciejunes believes that Art Matters is a model of the public-private partnerships for which Columbus is known, bringing together donors from corporate, individual and government sources; the city, county and state all contributed to CMA’s campaign.

“When public dollars come into play, I believe that both corporate partners and individual donors see that as a validation that you’re doing things right,” Maciejunes says, adding that the scrutiny attached to taxpayer money is appropriate and can boost confidence all around. “And it’s that blending of all of those donors that make this possible.”