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The Mulvane Art Museum in Washburn will close for one year for HVAC repairs

One of Topeka’s major art galleries will close for at least a year as workers undertake substantial updates to the historic building.

Washburn University officials confirmed to the Topeka Capital-Journal on Wednesday that the Mulvane Art Museum will close in March due to much-needed maintenance of the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

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“Maintaining the correct temperature and humidity levels is the first line of defense in preserving and caring for any museum collection,” said Connie Gibbons, director of the Mulvane Art Museum. “We’ve invested thousands of dollars over the past five years to perform artwork conservation; improvements at the Mulvane will ensure these artworks are here for the next 100 years and beyond.

The renovations and maintenance will take about seven months, although Mulvane will reopen before spring 2024, the year of its 100th anniversary. The Rita Blitt Gallery, however, will remain open during that time.

The Mulvane Art Museum has been a cornerstone of Washburn for nearly a century

The gallery is named for Joab R. Mulvane, a railroad president who helped establish Kansas as a transportation and shipping hub for the United States in the 19th century. He bequeathed the funds for the gallery in 1922 and the building was later completed in 1924.

After the 1966 tornado devastated the Washburn campus, the university made substantial renovations inside the building, keeping the limestone exterior intact while connecting the building to the newly built Garvey Fine Arts Center. Additional renovations in 2006 increased the exhibit space to 9,000 square feet and allowed for the expansion of the museums arts education program.

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Two exhibits will run until the museum closes temporarily next month. “Invitations to Listen” features artwork Rachel Epp Buller created in response to her daily walks during a residency in Canada. “Clear Water: Encountering Mokuhanga” draws from the museum’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints, known as “mokuhanga,” which the museum received in 1968 as a gift from Robert Whitcomb.

The museum sees more than 50,000 visitors and program participants each year, according to its website.

Rafael Garcia is an educational reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 785-289-5325. Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.

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