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Last updated: Fri. Nov. 13, 2009 - 11:31 am EDT

Wyeths’ works to reopen museum

Exhibit slated for late March in expanded art center

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art on Wednesday announced the first exhibit it will host after its reopening in the spring.

“Wyeth: An American Legacy, Treasures from the Farnsworth Museum” will feature 48 works from three members of the Wyeth family: painters Andrew and Jamie and illustrator N.C. Wyeth.

The local museum is undergoing a $7.5 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion.

Charles Shepard, Fort Wayne Museum of Art executive director, said he expects the new exhibit and the renovated building to open during the last week of March.

And he believes news of the Wyeth exhibit is “probably one of the most dramatic announcements the museum had made in a quarter-century.”

“We wanted a certain kind of show (to debut renovations),” he said. “There was a long list. But every time I thought about it, my mind went back to the Wyeths.”

Shepard said the Wyeths “came into prominence when abstraction reigned,” but they ignored it. They weren’t so much realists, he said, as artists who wanted to do justice to “the human experience.”

Renovations are on schedule, Shepard said. “It looks only 75 percent done, but it is really 95 percent done,” he said.

When it is finished, Shepard said, the museum will have its first permanent gallery space devoted to American art.

There will also be a new gallery devoted to regional art, Shepard said.

The refurbished museum will have roughly five more discreet gallery spaces than before, Shepherd said, along with a plush lobby and snack bar.

Shepard said he was alarmed to see the following comment in a visitors book, when he arrived in Fort Wayne in 2003: “I thought there’d be more.”

“I thought, ‘What does this mean? What is this more?’ ” he said.

Shepard and the museum board decided the way to proceed was to add as much “more” as they could, as economically as possible.

Shepard said he now can tell a story in a way he wasn’t able to before.

“When you tell a story,” he said. “You need an opener and a closer. Before, I had no closer. I was like William Burroughs. It was stream of consciousness.”

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