Lauren Rogers Museum of Art renovations near completion

LRMA-construction_rgbWhen it comes to delicate logistics, one South Mississippi renovation project tops the list. A miscue here, and an irreplaceable world treasure could be compromised.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is nearing completion of construction that includes a new gallery, additional storage space and an expanded loading dock. Funded by a $5-million fundraising campaign ($3 million for the project, $2 million for the museum’s endowment), the museum broke ground on the project in January 2012.

LRMA director George Bassi admitted he went into the project concerned with the security of the museum’s holdings. He said he and the museum’s board use the word “charmed” in describing the project that got underway in earnest last February.

“It is hard to imagine it going any better. We’re beyond pleased,” he said.

Charmed, perhaps, but the museum staff was proactive and took no chances. All of the galleries except one were stripped and the artifacts, which include everything from Native American baskets to Rembrandt, were safely tucked away in storage before construction began.

Perhaps the most important part of the project, which was partially funded by a $250,000 Building Fund for the Arts grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, is the least visible. The museum’s roof was never insulated, and an audit revealed approximately 55 percent of LRMA’s utility bill was for energy that went through the roof.

Another key component of the job is lighting. Crews replaced the museum’s skylights, replacing them with lighting that approximates sunlight.

The new gallery, encompassing 3,400 square feet, will offer new space for meetings, special events, lectures, etc.

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Bassi stressed the importance of the expanded shipping and delivery area and storage vault. He said museum’s today must offer a loading dock large enough to handle an 18-wheeler in order to efficiently handle exhibits.

The design work was executed by Foil Wyatt Architects & Planners, PLLC, of Jackson, and the general contractor is Laurel-based Chris Abritton Construction Company Inc.

The museum, which opened in 1923 and sees more than 30,000 visitors annually, is set to jointly celebrate completion of the renovations as well as the museum’s 90th anniversary this spring. Marketing director Holly Green details are still being developed, but a dedication ceremony will be held May 1 for the new space followed by a short concert by the Laurel High School Gospel Choir and then a reception. The public will be invited.

For more information on the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, visit www.lrma.org.

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