Day and night, regardless of the weather, an enormous rainbow hovers above the mezzanine of BYU’s Museum of Art. It’s been there for nearly two years.
Titled “Plexus No. 29,” the rainbow was woven by Gabriel Dawe using almost 80 miles of colored filament, enough to span two floors and the length of the lobby. It makes an impressive (and accurate) first impression for visitors to the museum, fitting with past exhibitions that have featured high-profile works from Rembrandt, Warhol, Norman Rockwell and others. Works from Carl Bloch, Minerva Teichert and the like are consistently on display, along with other religious masterworks from the Renaissance to the present.
In short, the MOA wasn’t built to exhibit anything less than excellence.
By Farrah Lamoreaux
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For more than a century, BYU’s art collection accumulated in random buildings across campus. In 1991, BYU broke ground on a new 100,000-square-foot building to house the then 17,000-piece collection.
“When (the museum) was approved, its planning committee toured the country and found the best examples of museum galleries, education areas, storage, lighting, security, public spaces and worked them all into one plan,” says Mark Magleby, the museum’s director.
Though on BYU campus, the museum wasn’t funded by the LDS church or the university. From day one, donors paid for everything, construction included.
“Generous donors fund all of our exhibitions, building maintenance and the vast majority of our salaries,” Magleby says. That said, the MOA’s exhibition history looks less like a list of famous artists and more like a remarkable accomplishment.
“Because we don’t have an acquisition endowment, we have to match a donor to any work of art we would like to own,” Magleby says. “We’re actively acquiring works by watching the auctions, but if the auction is happening in three days, we may not be able to contact a donor in time. Nevertheless, we are amazed how often a donor steps forward at just the right moment.”
It’s All Free
It’s hard to believe given that museum prices around the country range from $20 on up, but admission to BYU’s art museum is free — for everyone, not just students. Even the print study room, where patrons can request to view (or sketch) works that aren’t currently on display, is free.
“Free” even applies to special museum events. The best attended is Art After Dark, which features food, great art (of course) and live music. Other events include Open Studio, a family focused art-making experience related to a current exhibition; gallery talks with educators and experts; and Reading Under the Rainbow, when museum staff read a children’s book under “Plexus No. 29,” among others.
See moa.byu.edu/events for a complete calendar.
Museum Café Affordably Delicious
The only part of the museum that isn’t free is the cafe, but don’t let that hold you back. The cafe’s dining area nestled on the mezzanine looks out on the museum’s manicured sculpture garden through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Though managed by BYU Dining Services, it’s far from cafeteria food. True, it is usually focused on supplying food to a campus of 30,000 students, but it has also garnered multiple awards in categories usually topped by big-city restaurateurs.
The cafe’s offerings are far more exotic than what you’ll find elsewhere on campus — such as riroviacmoci (don’t bother to sound it out — just ask for the Japanese cotton cheesecake), Thai potato corn chowder and Asian edamame salad.
See the current menu and pricing at http://dining.byu.edu/moacafe//menu.html. Surprisingly, nothing costs more than $10.