A British Accent in New Haven

May 9, 2016

When Provost Ben Polak wrote earlier this spring about the many construction projects under way around our campus, he described architect Louis I. Kahn’s last masterpiece, the Yale Center for British Art, which first opened its doors in 1977. Today, after a sixteen-month renovation, those doors will reopen to Yale faculty, staff, and students for an open house (complete with afternoon tea)—a sneak preview of the beautifully restored and reconfigured galleries that will again welcome the public on Wednesday, the official opening day.

Yale’s extraordinary collections, found in our libraries and museums, our galleries and other holdings, are connected with the community to a degree that I believe stands alone among U.S. universities and other great institutions. The Yale Center for British Art, like the Yale University Art Gallery, is free and open to the public—not just this Wednesday, but every day that it is open for normal business. The Peabody Museum, the Yale University Library, and the Collection of Musical Instruments make Yale’s treasures accessible not just to those who visit in person, but to people around the world through online exhibits, tours, and information.

The Yale Center for British Art’s refurbishment exemplifies this spirit of community. When you visit this afternoon, or later this week with family and friends, you will see how the center draws people to our campus. You will also have the chance to observe how the renovation has made the center, as the provost wrote, “more inviting and available to all.” This includes the public at large, but also our students and faculty in concrete ways: the reconfigured spaces on the center’s fourth floor, originally designed by Kahn to be study areas, will now fulfill that purpose, enabling scholars to request and examine up close many of the center’s works not currently on display.

The ripple effects of the renovation can be felt beyond the center’s walls as well. Nearly all of the building’s old linen wall coverings were given to the School of Art or to community art programs. And the plywood and other materials used during the construction process were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

So stop by this afternoon, take in the spectacular works of art, enjoy a cup of tea, and say “cheers” to a Yale and New Haven landmark reborn.