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Maryhill Museum of Art: Inside and outside a mansion of oddities along the Columbia RiverPrint Email >D.K. Row, The Oregonian By D.K. Row, The Oregonian The Oregonian
on April 27, 2012 at 6:00 AM, updated April 27, 2012 at 11:11 AM
The museum opened its season on March 15 after its annual closure for the winter months. But a lot has been happening in those months: On May 12 and 13, Maryhill unveils its new Mary and Bruce Stevenson Wing, a roughly $10 million expansion project that is the biggest thing to happen to the museum in a long time.
The addition will play the modern 21st century Felix Unger to the existing structure's 20th century Oscar Madison, adding efficient storage space, a modern exhibit area and educational spaces, as well as a cafe and open patio area.
The wing, designed by Portland's GBD Architects, is one more attraction to the stately manse and grounds that give visitors unencumbered views of Mount Hood, the Columbia River, Biggs Junction and Sherman County.
Old favorites include:
* Sculptures, studies and drawings by Auguste Rodin.
* A huge collection of Native American artifacts, including knives, bowls and hundreds of baskets.
* Architect Brad Cloepfil's 148-foot-long cantilevered progression of concrete that leads viewers out along a bluff overlooking the river.
* A full-scale replica of Stonehenge. Built as a tribute to the soldiers of Washington's Klickitat County who lost their lives, a plaque at the site says it was the first monument in the nation to honor the dead of World War I.
* A collection of vaguely creepy but exquisite French miniature fashion mannequins in a tableaux called Theatre de la Mode.
A room full of Romanian furniture, paintings and accessories from Queen Marie of Romania.
Maryhill Museum: A Mansion of Splendors
Gallery: Maryhill Museum: A Mansion of SplendorsBinding the disparate collection together is Sam Hill, the outsize personality, entrepreneur, railroad executive and friend to artists and Romanian aristocracy who built the poured-concrete manse. He began the Beaux-Arts-style mansion in 1914, intending it to be his home. But World War I and financial difficulties sidetracked those plans. Artist friends convinced Hill to turn the building into a museum. In 1926, Queen Marie came to the U.S. to dedicate the museum, but it didn't open to the public until 1940, nine years after Hill's death at age 73.
If that's one of the most mazelike beginnings for a museum, its collection is just as labyrinthine.
And that's exactly the appeal of this Oregon-Washington treasure, which seems to have something for every kind of museum-goer, whether artistic minded or families with children. Plus it has plenty to offer nature lovers on its 5,300 acres, with glorious views in every direction.
Maryhill is a peculiar, beguiling place -- part serious art museum, part Beaux Arts artifact, part fortress -- surrounded by wineries and windmills.
Take a drive on a sunny day and check it out.
Here's a quick guide to some of the different ways to experience it.Motoya Nakamura/The OregonianThe new Stevenson Wing designed by GBD Architects gives the museum more gallery, collections and educational space
Enjoying the new Mary and Bruce Stevenson Wing
The historic Maryhill mansion was conceived and built as a home, not as a museum to store and exhibit valuable works of art. But the museum staff has made things work over the years, exhibiting about 20 percent of the museum's roughly 20,000 objects while storing the rest in cramped but climate-controlled quarters.
Still, the need to have more square footage and a space for scholars and others to study art didn't go away. Same with the need for an educational center, as well as more storage and exhibition space.
Conversation about adding a new wing began back in the 1990s, says Executive Director Colleen Schafroth. Gifts from private donors, foundation grants and funding from Washington state made the new wing a reality. It is named for late patrons of the museum who gave substantially to the new wing.
The Stevenson Wing gives the museum 25,000 square feet of additional space. The multi-level wing, part of which is underground, includes a cafe, gallery, art education center, collections storage room and outdoor interpretive space with additional signs to give visitors a chance to learn more about the museum.
The public can get a glimpse of the new wing when the museum's "British Painting From the Permanent Collection" opens on May 1 in the wing's lower-level hallway gallery. Special dedication events and tours on May 12 and 13 will officially unveil the building. Admission is free both days.Motoya Nakamura/The OregonianBrad Cloepfil's "Maryhill Overlook" is a stunning piece of outdoor architectural design completed before Cloepfil and his firm, Allied Works, became world famous. Enjoying Maryhill Museum of Art
Where: 35 Maryhill Drive, Goldendale, Wash.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; open March 15-Nov. 15
Admission: $9 general, $8 seniors, $3 ages 7-18, free for 6 and younger; $25 for family admission (two adults plus children ages 7-18)
To get there: It's more than 100 miles from Portland, so give yourself about two hours to get there driving at a steady, safe clip. From Interstate 84 take Exit 87 to U.S. 197, then follow it to State Route 14.
Meals: You can bring food for a picnic on the grounds. Or buy food at the new museum cafe, which is scheduled to open May 1 in the new wing.
The "plein air" approach
One of the pleasures of Maryhill has nothing to do with the art inside the mansion.
It's about enjoying all the stuff "in the open air." If the outdoors is your thing, don't miss:
"Maryhill Overlook" by famed architect Brad Cloepfil. The quasi-architectural piece next to the parking lot was completed in 1998, when Cloepfil was on the verge of becoming one of the most famous architects in the world. Eight feet wide and 148 feet long, the site-specific work, made with funds from the Washington Department of Transportation, looks like a pillbox from a distance. In a book, Cloepfil calls the piece an attempt to "distill architectural form." Just call it a minimal piece of concrete poetry. Go ahead: Sit on it, sip a coffee and check out the endless views.
The outdoor sculpture garden next to the parking lot. Tied in with the dedication of the new wing on May 12, the museum will install new sculptures, so more may go up in the next few weeks.
The peacocks. Often milling about, their exotic calls and drapey plumage are free theater in the wide open air.
You can also check out the views of the Columbia River, the nearby vineyards and the many windmills in the acreage surrounding the museum.
With kids and families
The museum is great for a day trip with little ones.
Inside (it has two elevators, and is stroller accessible), don't miss:
The EyeSEE Activity Room on the museum's upper level. The nook has space for kids to read a book, create art and play with a number of child-friendly objects.
Depending on your child's age and level of interest, check out the vast array of Native American art objects, or the museum's collection of chess sets from different countries around the world, or, for the fashion- or history-minded, those French mannequins.
When the kids start getting restless, take them outside for a picnic or a chance to run around on the spacious lawns. Outdoors, try these:
Have lunch at the tables near the outdoor sculpture area.
Whisk them off to England with a walk through the Stonehenge replica (a short drive away).
1) Watch the weather; the area can occasionally be a vortex of gusty winds.
2) Keep your kids away from the river side. The bluff is steep and, while there is fencing, a determined child could crawl over it.Motoya Nakamura/The OregonianA long corridor featuring memorabilia on Loie Fuller leads into the museum's collection of Rodin works
For the love of art
Some say it's difficult to think of Maryhill as a high-level museum because of its hub of oddities, but to do so is to overlook the several parts of the collection well worth the time of the serious observer. Such as:
The sculptures, casts, drawings and other pieces by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The collection offers a significant overview of the famed pre-Modernist artist.
A room devoted to Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox icons. They may be curiosities, but they're rarities that provoke somber reflection.
The Native American art and artifact collection is a comprehensive visual history of North American tribes.
The room decorated with many of Sam Hill's artifacts and mementos. Why not learn something about the man who created the mansion-turned-museum on the hill?
For the curiosity factor
You'd be hard-pressed to find an odder museum. Few places have such jarring juxtapositions between the beautiful and the bizarre, the unexpected jumps between serious art and sheer camp.
Don't try to make Maryhill's permanent offerings make sense as a complete experience. Embrace the strangeness and be sure to make time for:
The long corridor devoted to the milieu of dancer Loie Fuller. Fuller helped turned Sam Hill's mansion into a museum, and the museum pays dutiful homage to her spirit with a dizzying indulgence of art nouveau posters, photographs and assorted memorabilia.
The Theatre de la Mode on the museum's upper level. The tableaux of one-third human size mannequins wearing designs by some of France's best designers of the 1940s originated in 1946. It's composed of different stages, with mannequins on view wearing equally miniature but utterly fashionable clothes.
In addition to its ongoing exhibitions, Maryhill has several exhibits coming up, including:
Selections of British painting from the permanent collection, opening May 1 in the museum's new wing.
Works from the ceramics collection, also opening May 1 in the new wing.
A series of 23 realist paintings from the collection of Henry and Sharon Martin opening June 9 in the museum's main building.
And, opening Sept. 15, also in the main building, renowned British artist David Hockney's "Six Fairy Tales," an interpretation of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's fairy tales.
-- D.K. Row>
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