In Muscatine, the Stanley name carries a lot of weight. Though many recognize the good work the Stanley Family and their legacy have done in Muscatine, few realize the scope of their generosity around the state and beyond. At the July 22nd Rotary Club meeting, Lauren Lessing, Director of the University of Iowa’s (University) Stanley Museum of Art (SMA), shared how a donation from Richard and Mary Jo Stanley made rebuilding and reenvisioning this museum possible.
During the Iowa River Flood of 2008, the University’s Museum of Art flooded. The collection survived, but the building did not. The University elected to move the museum to higher ground near their main library. To cover construction costs, the University pledged to spend $25 million on the project, if the museum could match that amount in private donations.
Interested in supporting the arts, Richard and Mary Jo Stanley donated $10 million. Out of gratitude for their support, the University incorporated their name into the name of the museum. “This building would not be possible without the Stanley Family, especially Dick and Mary Jo who were the naming sponsors with a $10 million donation,” stated Lessing.
Once the SMA opens in 2020, Lessing hopes many people from Muscatine County and other parts of Iowa will come visit this innovative space. Designed with more interactive components than a traditional art museum, Lessing hopes to help engage as many Iowans as possible with art. “We want people to see the museum as more than just a jewel box of great art, but as a community center,” she emphasized.
With that goal in mind, the staff and builders of the SMA incorporated many engaging features into the final design of the new museum. The broad front steps of the museum create an outdoor stage. In the SMA’s sizable lobby, soft seating, electrical outlets, and a café will encourage students to come study. Blackout curtains and an acoustic ceiling can also convert the lobby to an auditorium. Flexible gallery space will allow the SMA to create small teaching spaces and spacious galleries for traveling exhibits, maximizing the museum’s potential to help visitors interact with their art and professional staff.
While not everyone from Muscatine may have the opportunity to visit the SMA, Lessing shared that the museum will keep leading school and community programs. Through this outreach, even more area residents will get to enjoy the SMA’s outstanding collection of art and feel the generosity of the Stanley family.