Spencer Museum of Art

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Making plans for what happens to your possessions when you die can be tough for anyone. But for artists – it’s not just about stuff, it’s about a lifetime of artistic creation. And … what happens to it when they die?

The biggest new thing at KU's Spencer Museum of Art isn't a thing at all – it's natural light. The museum recently reopened after undergoing a structural overhaul, bringing bigger windows, and more of them. How do local renovations, like this one, reflect changing trends in museum architecture? And how do they impact the way we think about art?

Courtesy the University of Kansas

Visitors to the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence will soon see it in a new light – specifically, light pouring into a brand new, glass-encased entryway that is part of an $8 million renovation. 

After 18 months, the museum celebrates a grand re-opening on Saturday, but because they are the museum’s primary patrons, students at the University of Kansas got a special preview party on October 6. Even if they just came for the free food — always a draw for students — the museum’s transformation didn’t disappoint.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Kansas Board of Regents this week approved the renovation and expansion plans for the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

The building where the museum is housed opened to the public in 1978, and according to a news release, the collection has grown by more than 250 percent. This includes the nearly 10,000 objects transferred to the Spencer's holdings in 2007, with the closing of the KU Museum of Anthropology, and other acquisitions.

Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) / Spencer Museum of Art

In the 1930's, farmers' extensive deep plowing of top soil in the great plains region displaced the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place. That, in combination with a mix of drought and high winds led to dust storms creating a decade-long period known as the dust bowl that affected thousands of people. What was once a paradise for those moving west to farm the land became a desert-like environment and was later deserted by many settlers. 

Florian Holzherr / Collection of Mark and Lauren Booth/Courtesy Spencer Museum of Art

The "thingness," or the physicality of light, has been a focus of exploration for artist James Turrell for five decades. This summer, three major exhibitions of Turrell's work opened in Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, where he turned the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda into, what one critic described as, a "meditative spectacle."

At the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Turrell's Gard Blue, a projected light work, dates to the 1960s, when the artist first started exploring the potential of light.

Florian Holzherr / courtesy Spencer Museum of Art

It’s been a summer of light for the arts world – and for artist James Turrell.

Spencer Museum of Art

The state of health care in the U.S. was at the top of the list of concerns many Americans took to the voting booths this week.

Gift of the artist, 2006.0102 / Spencer Museum of Art

What images best convey the meaning of politics in America? An exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence explores this idea through photography, prints, paintings, archival political ads, and a poodle skirt. 

Spencer Museum purchase: Peter T. Bohan Art Acquisition Fund

University of Maryland emeritus professor David Driskell discusses the life and work of Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas, who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.