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A Broader, Brighter Canvas

New location will expand McMullen Museum's reach

McMullen Museum

After more than 20 years in Devlin Hall, the McMullen Museum of Art will soon take center stage on BC’s burgeoning Brighton Campus— nearly doubling its exhibition space and dramatically increasing its capacity for interdisciplinary inquiry.

The move will take place next year, after extensive remodeling of the landmark building that once housed Boston’s cardinal archbishop and his staff.

“We’re thrilled that we’ll soon be opening the new McMullen Museum across Commonwealth Avenue, both as an opening to new possibilities in the arts here on campus and beyond, and as a reminder of the central place that the arts have long held in the Jesuit tradition,” says Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley.

The museum’s expansion was made possible in part by a Light the World campaign gift from the McMullen Family Foundation.

The larger, more accessible venue will help promote the exhibitions to a wider audience, says Jacqueline McMullen, a BC parent and five-time BC grandparent who made the museum’s initial naming gift with her late husband, former University Trustee John McMullen.

“The McMullen Family Foundation has always had the education of students and the public at large as one of its primary goals,” she says. “Through this new museum we endeavor to foster a heightened appreciation and enthusiasm for art among BC and other Boston-area students.”

Expanding the Palette 

The arts have long been a key ingredient in the Jesuit approach to education, says University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, S.J., who -- while serving as University President -- was instrumental in the museum's founding in 1993.

"Art engages not only the intelligence, but also one's sensibilities to values," says Monan, indicating the important role that visual and performing arts play in personal formation.

"One of the distinguishing features of the McMullen," says Monan, "is that each exhibit is the result of a creative endeavor shaped by faculty and students, in which scholarship informs the viewing experience and students are actively involved in the entire process. The new museum will enlarge upon that distinctive element."

McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer agrees, saying the move will enrich every aspect of the museum’s work—fostering deeper scholarship and improving the experience of curators, students, and visitors alike. “The enhanced spaces will allow the McMullen to realize its potential as a world-class museum,” she says.

Already the McMullen has earned international praise for its cutting-edge scholarship. Its hallmark is interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together Boston College faculty and other scholars from such diverse disciplines as history, science, economics, and theology to create exhibitions that, as one New York Times critic said, “reach far beyond traditional art history.”

Netzer is especially enthusiastic about what the move will mean for students, who make significant contributions to the museum’s exhibitions, including highly-acclaimed retrospectives on artists such as Edvard Munch, Gustave Courbet, and, most recently, Wifredo Lam. Behind the scenes, student interns will enjoy new multimedia technology and larger spaces to work on the museum’s audio, film, and catalog projects. And in the public galleries, state-of-the-art technology and movable walls will allow for greater flexibility to expand or mount simultaneous displays.

A Beautiful New Frame

Three of those new galleries will bear the names of Janet and C. Michael Daley ’58, P’80, ’88. Champions of the museum from the very start, they were among the first to make a gift in support of the renovation.

“With every exhibition, I am struck by the rich confluence of ideas and the deep subject expertise that Nancy Netzer and her colleagues bring together,” says Mike Daley, chair of the McMullen Museum of Art Patrons’ Committee. “It’s a thrill to invest in the future of the McMullen—to help prepare a broader and brighter canvas—and we hope others will be inspired to do the same.”

In designing the new museum, special care was taken to preserve the building’s historic character. The landmark façade of the 1927 building—designed by Boston architects Maginnis and Walsh, who also developed campus icons such as Gasson Hall—will largely be preserved, with the addition of an atrium that will welcome visitors and add exhibit space.

The first floor will house a University conference center, its reception rooms displaying old masters and 19th-century American paintings from the McMullen’s permanent collection. The McMullen Museum will occupy the top two floors, with main galleries on the second floor and additional galleries, museum offices, and a rooftop terrace garden on the third.
The museum will remain free and open to the public and will continue to operate in Devlin Hall until its new home officially opens next fall.

Looking ahead to that day, Provost Quigley says “The opening of the new McMullen Museum of Art is a wonderful moment for this University, building on the successes of the last 20 years and pointing to a great new age for the arts and for the University as a whole.”  

Many opportunities remain to support the McMullen Museum. To learn more, please visit www.bc.edu/newmcmullen or contact Beth McDermott, associate vice president, development, at beth.mcdermott@bc.edu or 617-552-9151.

McMullen Museum

McMullen Museum First Floor

Museum visitors will enter a light-filled, three-story glass atrium with a commanding view of the Brighton Campus. One wall will display a stained glass triptych by John LaFarge, the gift of Alison and William Vareika ’74, P’09, ’15.

McMullen Museum Second Floor

Named for Janet and C. Michael Daley ’58, P’80, ’88, the main galleries on the second floor will be the centerpiece of the new museum. A flexible design offers opportunities for expanded exhibitions or simultaneous displays, enhancing the visitor’s experience and allowing faculty and students to work together on more complex curatorial endeavors.

McMullen Museum Third Floor

Upon reaching the third floor, visitors can pause at the terrace garden, a unique rooftop space where sightlines stretch into the city of Boston. A smaller, more intimate gallery space will feature special exhibitions, and the museum’s offices and work spaces will welcome students, faculty, and visiting scholars collaborating on multimedia and other projects.

Boston College Alumni and Friends