W&M announces multimillion-dollar Visual Arts Center

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

The Muscarelle Museum will expand under a multimillion-dollar Center for the Visual Arts announced Friday by the College of William and Mary.

The announcement followed a unanimous decision by the university's Board of Visitors to name the center after Martha Wren Briggs, a benefactor to the Muscarelle and 1955 alumnus who has spent her life furthering the arts, according to a William and Mary news release.

"The college meant everything to her, and this is her way, in many ways, to give back," Muscarelle director Aaron De Groft said Friday.

The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, much like its namesake, will work to advance the arts and artists.

Beyond an expanded Muscarelle Museum and new Kaplan wing, the center plans to include interactive technologies, a teaching center for research and learning, a state-of-the-art auditorium and gathering spaces, according to the release.

Funding for the center was a top priority for the Muscarelle within William and Mary's For the Bold, a significant fundraising campaign launched in 2015. The museum's campaign priorities stated the new visual arts center would triple visitor spaces and galleries.

While De Groft said Briggs' gift made moving forward with the center possible, he estimated nearly 40 other donors have contributed to the project.

"It's just very, very exciting," De Groft said.

And perhaps fitting for a college was first in the country to collect art and include art in its curriculum, the release stated.

A writer and art historian, Briggs earned a bachelor of arts at William and Mary and a Master's in art history from New York University's Insititute of Fine Arts. She has lived in Williamsburg for many decades, according to the release.

"The study of art history reflects visually the physical, religious, social and philosophical thinking of a particular era. With so much knowledge needing to be absorbed, students who study art and its history must be well educated in many subjects to give a work of art its proper interpretation," said Briggs in the release. "I would like to see the Briggs Center used to its full advantage in giving William and Mary students the edge to have this perspective in their academic and everyday life."

"This is an investment in a winning aspect of the college for the future, and that's what's transformational about it," De Groft said.

William and Mary plans to announce the architect for the center in the coming weeks.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

For more information, visit wm.edu or muscarelle.org.

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