The North Carolina Museum of Art in the capital city of Raleigh was established in 1947 by a grant awarded by the North Carolina General Assembly for the purpose of establishing a permanent collection of artwork for a state museum. The money was used to purchase 139 American and European paintings and sculptures, making this the first museum in the U.S. to use public funds to purchase art. The museum officially opened in 1956 in a renovated state office building in the downtown area and, since 1983, has occupied a space built especially for the museum, located on Blue Ridge Road.
Today, with a collection of about 5,000 works, the museum is still largely publicly funded and visitors may tour the permanent collection free of charge. It is currently divided into seven different galleries and continues to grow. Spanning several centuries from ancient Egypt to current times, the museum is best known for its collection of European works, including a 2005 gift of 29 sculptures by Auguste Rodin from the Cantor Foundation. This gift makes the North Carolina Museum of Art the only repository of Rodin's works in the U.S. South.
The current galleries include the Modern Gallery, which features works by both American and European masters of modern art, including Georgia O'Keefe, Marsden Hartley, Henry Moore, and Paul Delvaux; the African Gallery, which includes mostly wooden artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries; the Ancient Collection, featuring Egyptian funerary art as well as Greek and Roman pieces; the Gallery of American Art, including 18th and 19th century American works of a variety of genres; Ancient American Gallery; home to works from the ancient civilizations of South and Central America including terracotta sculptures and vases dating back to the 6th century; the Oceanic Gallery, featuring pieces of art from the island peoples of the Pacific; and a gallery of Jewish Ceremonial Art, one of only two in the country, including pieces spanning the last three centuries.
Four galleries in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh are set aside for the display of temporary exhibits that are generally on loan from other museums around the country. These displays are available for viewing at the cost of a small admission fee. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
The scope of educational programs at this mid-sized museum is wide. Adult programs feature lectures and symposia on art history and other aspects of the subject. Children can take advantage of a variety of workshops offered all year round including many hands-on activities. Week-long summer camps are also offered for children ages 6 to 12.
Outdoors, the North Carolina Museum of Art offers Museum Park, a 164-acre trailed area that includes monumental works of art for all to enjoy during a peaceful stroll. Also, the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Theater, a 500-seat outdoor theater that hosts musical concerts and films in the warmer months, is an integral part of the museum and exposes visitors to a variety of performing arts.
There is also a restaurant and museum store on site as well as a conservation lab, photography studio, a carpentry studio, and a 28,000 volume art reference library open for use to professionals who wish to do research.
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