On Jan. 27, Bob Jones University announced via a press release that both Museum & Gallery locations will be closing this February.
While the downtown location Heritage Green closed permanently Saturday, Feb. 4, the main on-campus location will close for renovations on Feb. 18.
The University estimates the renovations to the M&G building (one of the original buildings on campus which is now 70 years old) to last anywhere from 18 to 24 months.
Renovations will include work such as installation of new HVAC climate control and repairs to the interior and exterior walls. Although the M&G building will be saved, the University has not yet ruled out moving the M&G to an alternative location.
John Matthews, Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations, who along with M&G executive director Erin Jones is spearheading the closure and renovations, said that it is not uncommon for a museum to temporarily close for renovation.
Matthews said the main goal of the project is to make the museum even better while properly preserving the collection. “The treasure has got to be protected,” Matthews said.
While President Steve Pettit has reaffirmed in a public statement the University’s continued commitment to the M&G collection, the BJU Board of Trustees voted in their October meeting to sell the collection’s non-religious pieces, including paintings and other objects of art.
The M&G is known for its religious collection, and these secular pieces are not on permanent display in the museum and appear only periodically around campus.
While the M&G building undergoes reconstruction, its collection will be on loan to other museums, businesses and individuals capable of caring for and enjoying the pieces.
Both Matthews and Jones expressed their eagerness to use the collection to further the mission of BJU and to create new friendships for the University.
Although Matthews said it is not the intention of the University to generate interest in purchasing the paintings, he did not rule out a potential sale.
During the period of renovation, M&G will focus on increasing its online presence under the leadership of Donnalynn Hess, Director of Education for the M&G.
“We’re looking forward to, during this time down, expanding our vision into the virtual world as well as the actual world,” Hess said. “When we reopen, we will be an even better resource for the community at large and the educational community.”
Under Jones and Hess, the M&G has partnered with public educators and homeschool families to promote the arts. Certified teachers with M&G’s Museum on the Move outreach have taught in public classrooms from K5 to 12th grade.
M&G’s Homeschool Days draw hundreds of students to campus with interactive educational events related to the arts. M&G plans to continue its programs for public school and homeschool students even after its closing.
M&G reported serving 16,600 school-aged children last year alone, including 8,000 public school students. In addition, the M&G served thousands of visitors to both of its locations.
Jones expressed the significance of the downtown Heritage Green location. “We have served the community. They do love what M&G is doing. We have touched thousands of lives through every outreach we have offered including Heritage Green.”
Jones remarked that the decision to open Heritage Green was a landmark step toward better relations between BJU and the Greenville community.
“The community is still constantly learning that we love them, we are interested in them, that we want to serve them,” Jones said.
Matthews and Jones said the University is expected to change its tax status to not-for-profit within months.
As a result, the Board of Trustees brought M&G back into the University proper, and it will now operate as a university department rather than a separate entity. Jones said the effects on M&G will be minimal. And Matthews said M&G simply came back to its roots.
Staff cuts will follow the closing of both galleries. While approximately 40 student jobs at the museum will be absent from campus until the reopening, M&G graduate assistants are under contract and will be reassigned to fill other positions. Matthews assures that alternative student jobs exist on campus for affected workers.
The closing of Heritage Green will affect four full-time employees as well one part-time worker. Full-time employees will be compensated with a severance package.
Elisa Chodan, M&G GA, expressed the staff’s reaction and Jones’ leadership throughout the closing process.
“In the past, [Jones] has always been very strong and encouraged us to keep trusting in the Lord,” Chodan said. “She has done that even now, but she has also been okay with [our] hurting.”
Jones said although this is a heavy-hearted time for the M&G staff, she is hopeful for the future. She reaffirmed her belief in M&G’s purpose and continued relevance and her faith that God will use the collection that He and the University brought together.