Greenville County Museum of Art could nearly double its exhibition space if a proposed downtown events center is built.

Museum & Gallery is looking for a new home off the Bob Jones University campus for its famed collection of religious artwork. The Greenville County Museum of Art needs more exhibit space.

If plans for a proposed events center in downtown Greenville are realized, both museums will get the space they need as well as increased visibility and accessibility in what developers, and museum and city officials, say would be a one-of-a-kind project.

The GCMA has significant collections of work by Andrew Wyeth, Jasper Johns, William H. Johnson, enslaved artisan and poet David Drake, and in its acclaimed Southern Collection that features art connected to the American South.

“The GCMA collection is both broad and deep in American art,” said Tom Styron, the museum’s executive director.

However, only 5 percent of the museum’s collection is on display at any given time at its Heritage Green facility. The events center would add about 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, almost doubling what the museum has now.

“This project feels unique. I can’t think of anything else like it anywhere,” Styron said. He said the project would “galvanize Greenville’s reputation as a powerful arts community.”

He said he believes traffic at the main museum, which draws more than a third of its visitors from at least 150 miles away, would increase.

“Each location would be the best advertisement for the other,” he said.

The Museum & Gallery has been closed since 2017 because the building that housed it on the BJU campus needs significant work. M&G has one of the largest collections of European old master paintings in America. While it is internationally known for Baroque art, the collection includes furniture, antiquities, Russian icons, textiles, and objects of art that span 45 centuries.

“The Museum & Gallery has been called the best-kept secret in Greenville. While that holds some charm, M&G doesn’t wish to be a secret to our community or guests,” said M&G Director Erin Jones.

A walkable downtown location would supply greater visibility to the collection, and increased accessibility, a modern look, and a closer link to the arts community would enable M&G to share the collection in a new way through public spaces for school and community group use, she said.

The on-campus museum had 35,000 square feet for galleries, office, storage, and daily operations. Jones said they’d like to have about 60,000 total square feet in the new museum. That would allow exhibition of a significant portion of the collection, gallery space for special exhibitions, and dedicated learning spaces for K-12 and adult programming, Jones said.

M&G has begun a quiet fundraising phase and is still determining the project’s cost.

Since the museum’s closure, some of its paintings have been loaned out to museums, corporate headquarters, and private homes of art enthusiasts. Selected pieces are on display in campus locations for public view and tours, and a sampling of some of the old masters hung in a recent GCMA exhibition.

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