Metal Museum expansion enhances and preserves Overton Park’s accessibility and dramatically increase museum’s ability to engage learners and expand world-class programming
This week, the Metal Museum, the nation’s only institution dedicated to fine metalwork, announced progress for their expansion to the city’s beloved Overton Park. The long-term lease of Rust Hall — which housed the Memphis College of Art for six decades — will require a $25 million dollar investment, including renovation of the 80,000 square foot mid-century building.
“When you start really thinking about what (Rust Hall) can be,” said Executive Director Carissa Hussong, “…when I look at what our current exhibitions could look like here, having the space where you could actually walk around each of the objects instead of having things against the wall where you can’t fully appreciate the work… that’s a moment that’s exciting to me.”
The expansion to Overton Park will enable the Metal Museum to grow into an inclusive community space for the creation and promotion of fine metalwork. wHY Architecture, based in Los Angeles, CA, has designed a multi-use campus for art exhibitions, educational activities, community events, landscape design, and more, which is estimated to open in the spring of 2025. Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK) of Memphis, Tennessee to serve as the project’s Executive Architect. Ritchie Smith Associates, Memphis, Tennessee to serve as local consultant on landscape design.
The Metal Museum will keep its historic and original site along the Mississippi River as a residence for working artists visiting from around the globe.
The Metal Museum is in the final stretch of raising $25 million for the renovation which will showcase a new state–of–the–art Metals Studio to house spaces for forging, casting, and large metal fabrication. Donors include the Windgate Foundation (Little Rock, Ark.), the Assisi Foundation, the Hyde Family Foundation, AutoZone, and ArtsMemphis, among others. A remaining $6 million is needed to start construction.
As a center for metal arts, the Museum promotes artists and their work through award-winning exhibitions, contributes to teaching the next generation of artists, and advances the education of the public through innovative and active arts education programs.
“I get so excited thinking about what we could do here,” said Carissa about the museum’s educational programming. “If we can do (all that we do now) … imagine all that in this space. The classes we could teach, the people we could engage, the lives we could change… it’s exciting.”
As part of the project, the Museum will preserve an award-winning, historic building and the legacy of arts in the park, while enhancing the existing landscaping with respect to the historic old-growth forest found in Overton Park.
Visitors to the renovated Rust Hall will experience a building that will be brighter or more open than the existing, historic 1959 structure, and with access to its rooftop, a space not previously open to the public.
About the overall design concepts, Carissa said “the guiding force of the design is about preserving the architecture while also addressing the challenges the building has. One of the key elements we need to achieve is to have the building be welcoming — being committed to that was always a thing we discussed. We want to be part of the park. We want park users to feel like they are welcome; to come up the stairs, to come into the building, to use it. We want it to be approachable from both the front and the back, facing The Brooks and facing The Shell, creating a sense of community in this campus.”
Above, renderings of the new design of Rust Hall, courtesy of the Metal Museum.
Said Carissa, “When a visitor enters from the new entrance on the ground level, they’ll come into a wider lobby area with the existing auditorium to the left; to the right they’ll be able to see into our collection storage – a little bit of that behind-the-scenes look at how museums operate. And also, they will be able to walk up the existing staircase in the building, which is very distinctive – it’s almost as if the building is built around these stairs – and then come up into this really open lobby. One really key element is the opening up of all of these walls, celebrating the existing space as a building within a park, creating a space so that you can always get glimpses of the park from wherever you are in the building.”
In addition, the Museum will embark on new partnerships with other institutions in the Park. The expansion and renovation provide the Museum six times the space for education programs, dramatically transforming its capacity to offer educational programming to learners of all ages, while also creating more space for world-class exhibitions.
The architectural renderings seen here are available online at metalmuseum.org/bethespark. To stay up-to-date on the project, register for Metal Museum emails at metalmuseum.org/subscribe.
“Be The Spark”
From the Metal Museum: “The Metal Museum is introducing its programs to an ever-widening audience, connecting people to a community of artists and collectors to provide access to experiences they may not have otherwise. Through educational opportunities such as classes and apprenticeships, learners of all skill levels and ages are empowered to create, becoming a vital part of the international metalsmithing community.”
About the Metal Museum
The Metal Museum is the only institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the preservation, promotion, and advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork. This mission is achieved through four primary program areas – exhibitions, collections, studio practice, and community education and engagement. Programs are facilitated on the Museum grounds and at locations across the Mid-South. Located on 3.2 acres of historic property overlooking the Mississippi River, the Museum grounds include the main Museum building as well as the Metals Studios, Library + Resource Center, and private artist residences. Learn more about the Museum and its programs by visiting metalmuseum.org.
The Museum receives operating support from ArtsMemphis and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Programming support is received from the Windgate Foundation, Hyde Family Foundation , and hundreds of corporate, foundation, and individual supporters.