It’s been 31 years since the doors of the new Grace Cultural Center opened to the public. After years of persistent fundraising, planning and renovations of the old Hotel Grace building, the ribbon-cutting day in February 1992 was a dream come true for many people in Abilene. It pointed towards a brighter future for our city on the very cusp of a revitalized downtown.
As those first guests flooded into the lobby, no one was thinking about the building’s future renovations. Today, The Grace Museum welcomes an average of 55,000 visitors every single year. With thousands of children, adults, and families coming in regularly for art events, school tours, classes, camps, family nights, and other happenings year-round, the museum definitely receives its fair share of foot traffic.
Behind the scenes, new art and history exhibitions are installed in the museum’s eight galleries every few months – that adds up to about 15 rotations a year! Before each new display goes up, the artwork and artifacts on view must be carefully stored, walls patched and painted, lighting reset, floors cleaned, and then the process begins again. This rotation continues throughout the year with little time between.
This year, The Grace decided to set aside a few months in the spring and summer to give its second and third floor galleries a much-needed “facelift.” Construction crews are working daily to resurface and repaint walls, ceilings, baseboards and pillars, to remove old carpet and add new flooring (including the two stairwells), and to upgrade gallery lighting. Gallery renovations will be completed by the end of August 2023.
While these spaces are under construction, there is still plenty to see and do at the museum this summer! Spark is a favorite spot to frequent for families with kids who love to learn through creative play. Visitors of any age can explore the interactive art and history areas, have fun solving puzzles, or experiment with the make-n-take supplies provided in the Create Lab. Don’t miss the museum’s featured art installation on the first floor – an immersive experience of dream-inspired, black-and-white photography by Dallas artist, Susan kae Grant.
The Grace also has a fun and free mobile guide app that you may not know about. With a simple download from the Google Play or App Store, you can use your cell phone to access exclusive virtual tours, artist recordings, collection highlights, and other bonus content. You can learn about The Grace’s origins as a 1909 hotel with a pool hall, a Western Union, a coffee shop, a barber shop, and several other businesses. You can explore the museum’s permanent art and history collections, or go on a virtual scavenger hunt. Overall, the app provides a lot of extras that you wouldn’t otherwise get during a “regular” museum trip.
The free mobile guide is easy to get, and to use! Just scan the QR code or search for “The Grace Museum” in your phone’s app store and download.
So, the next time you need a break from the summer heat or just need to get out of the house, stop by The Grace and have some fun exploring.
Contributed by The Grace Museum