Architectural rendering of BMA's original entrance, due to be reopened in fall 2014

A sign partway up the front steps of the Baltimore Museum of Art directs people away from that stately spot to a much less grand visitors' entrance on the far east side of the building. Things are about to get a lot more welcoming.

The BMA's $28 million renovation project, which has already resulted in the vibrant new Contemporary Wing unveiled last November (it cost $6.5 million of the renovation budget), is on target to generate three major components by the fall of 2014.


For the first time since 1982, the public will be able to stroll through the grand front doors of the original entrance to the classic 1929 building designed by John Russell Pope.

This reopening will help make the front of the museum "a community gathering place in a lot of ways," said BMA director Doreen Bolger.

The Merrick Entrance will lead visitors into the Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing, which is getting a major make-over, with restored chandeliers in the central hall and refinished terrazzo floors for the galleries. The old, bland carpeting is being removed from those areas, along with previous display platforms. 

"It's like cleaning your attic at home," Bolger said. "I can't wait to get this stuff out of here and see what these rooms are really like."

The wing will contain about 700 items from the BMA's collection of American fine and decorative arts. Maryland-related furniture, silver items and more (including the reconstructed18th-century Eltonhead Manor Room) will be given a dedicated space. A large Tiffany window currently outside the auditorium in the east wing will be relocated and prominently displayed in the American Wing.

There will still be a visitors' entrance on the east side, but it will look considerably different. "It's being lightened up and opened up," Bolger said.

The redesigned lobby area will have less obtrusive columns and a repositioned, airier staircase to the second floor; a new, expanded gift shop; and more restrooms.

These renovations, timed for the BMA's 2014 centennial (the museum was housed in a couple of downtown locations before moving into the Pope building).

The Wurtzburger African Art Gallery will be relocated to a space more than three times its current size. Two new Asian Art Galleries will be created. And there will be a new Learning and Creativity Center that includes an interactive gallery, art-making space and more.

The Baltimore architectural firm of Ziger/Snead is handling the renovation.