It’s been five years in the remaking, but the Museum of Biblical Art–the collection formerly known as the Biblical Arts Center–will host a ribbon cutting this Friday for its new building. The original building was destroyed in a 2005 fire that damaged and destroyed nearly all of its artwork. Miracle at Pentecost, Torger Thompson’s 124-foot long mural for which the nonprofit that runs the museum is named, was the first thing to catch fire and was completely destroyed.
Co-director and curator Scott Peck said the museum, the only of its kind in the country, had to start from scratch. The exterior walls, which were the one thing the fire left undamaged, were reused, but the interior was gutted. Out of the 2,500 pieces of art that were in the museum, Peck estimates that 2 percent have been restored.
That said, Peck is optimistic about the fresh start. The most obvious change is the golden ziggurat atop the building, which is based on the biblical pyramids of Ur in modern-day Iraq. A room dedicated to the restoration of art damaged in the fire has glass windows so visitors can watch conservators at work. And the museum had added several new galleries devoted to African American and Hispanic religious art, Jewish art, religious architecture, and biblical archaeology which, with a recent surge in interest, is “going gangbusters,” Peck said. Before the fire, the Miracle at Pentecost painting was the focal point of the museum, Peck said. Now, it has several.
Despite the changes, Peck said the museum’s mission is the same it’s always been–to show biblically themed art, regardless of denominational, religious, or cultural origen.
Following Friday’s 11 a.m. ribbon cutting, the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is, as always, free.
And speaking of new beginnings, the museum hosts weddings in its banquet hall. It’s already been booked for every Saturday through the end of 2010.