President Hinckley opens new museum of art at BYU

Surrounded by beauty and elegance and with a life-size replica of an Etruscan temple gate before him, President Gordon B. Hinckley found much to praise while speaking to an overflow crowd at the dedication ceremonies of the new Museum of Art at Brigham Young University.

Speaking from the museum's rotunda on Oct. 13, President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, said: "This new facility, so beautiful, so striking and so inspiring, is an expression ofthe doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:" `If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, [and I might add - beautiful], we seek after these things.'

"What is displayed here will nourish our finer instincts and cause us more frequently to ponder on the wonder of Him who is our God and our Creator, the author of all the truly beautiful."

The morning dedication was conducted by BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee. President Hinckley and Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Seventy, represented the BYU Board of Trustees, as did Sister Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president.

The gathering included members of the BYU administration, faculty and staff, community and Church leaders, many who donated money for the construction and operation of the museum, and other guests.

The ceremonies also marked the opening of the museum's inaugural exhibit: "The Etruscans: Legacy of a Lost Civilization." The exhibit, spotlighting a civilization that dominated Italy before giving way to the Roman Empire, will be the only one in the museum through April 1994. (See Oct. 16 Church News.) It will then be replaced by a show including some of the pieces in the museum's own collection.

The three-level, 100,000 square-foot museum is located on the northeast side of the BYU campus.

Pres. Lee and James A. Mason, former dean of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications and now the museum's director, joined President Hinckley as the dedication program's speakers. Bruce L. Christensen, who replaced Brother Mason as dean of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communication, gave the invocation, and Virgie D. Day, associate director of the museum, gave the benediction. Music was provided by a string quartet and the Brigham Young University Singers conducted by Ronald J. Staheli. They sang "To Be Sung on the Water" and "Oh Lord, I would hear Thy Word."

The audience at the dedication spilled out of the rotunda into other galleries in the museum as well as to the Pardoe Theater in the Harris Fine Arts Center and theaters in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center.

At the conclusion of the ceremonies, President Hinckley - flanked by President Lee and Brother Mason - used a pair of large scissors to cut a blue ribbon, officially opening the museum.

After the dedication ceremonies, President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, toured the museum and the Etruscan exhibit with other guests.

In his address, President Hinckley called the museum "a beautiful jewel added to this BYU campus."

He said that the museum wasn't essential in educating BYU students to enter the world of commerce where they are compensated for their skills. "One can be a lawyer, a scientist, a business executive, yes, even a parent without spending time in an art museum. But who can deny that exposure to art in its many forms will add something of tremendous enrichment for life and personality. Art provides a patina, a glow to the underlying dull surfaces of life. Without it we lack a certain wholeness, a certain balance, a certain refinement. BYU could be and has been a great university without this facility. But it is a much greater university with it."

President Hinckley was serving as chairman of the Board of Trustees during the meeting when Pres. Lee presented the final proposal for building the museum. President Hinckley said he could see the value of the museum, but felt that "the tithe payers of the Church worldwide should not be asked to construct it or maintain it when relatively few of those who pay their consecrated tithing dollars will have the opportunity of benefiting from it in a direct way."

Pres. Lee assured President Hinckley that the museum could be built with private donations and was given approval to proceed.

"Now, in behalf of the board of trustees, and in behalf of the entire Church, I thank each of you who has made all of this possible," President Hinckley told the dedication audience. "Untold numbers of grateful people through unnumbered generations of time will be the beneficiaries of your generous gifts.

"We are profoundly grateful to you as will be those who come after us. You have added an element of inestimable worth to this beautiful campus. Your investment in this property will yield returns intangible but nevertheless real for the blessing of this generation and generations yet to come."

President Hinckley offered thanks and congratulations to Brother Mason who presided over the process of turning the museum from a dream into a reality.

" I'm grateful that Dean James Mason has been afforded the honor of initially directing this institution," President Hinckley said. "He is wonderfully qualified, he is dedicated, he is enthusiastic. He carries in his heart a tremendous appreciation for art in its many forms.

"This is a well-deserved recognition for this good man who has earned this honor and who will set guideposts which will become as standards for his successors through the years to come."

President Hinckley related how, over the years, he has visited The Louvre in Paris and other great art museums in the world.

Then he said: "Our facility we dedicate today is perhaps not equal in size or fame with any of these. But it is a wonderful thing, a truly wonderful thing on this great campus in these western valleys. It is a treasure house where exhibits of various kinds will be made available through the years as well as the display of the tremendous [BYUT collection."

In conclusion, President Hinckley said: " A model of this university comes from our scripture: The Glory of God is intelligence,' to which must be added to make the verse complete,or in other words, light and truth.'

" `The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.' True art . . . is of the very essence of light and truth."

In the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley asked, "May all that is exhibited here be uplifting in its nature and speak of the glory of Thy creations and of the wondrous minds and skills of men and women who, touched by the creative spirit, touched by the desire to do something beautiful, touched by the spirit of Christ, are led and empowered to create things that lift and enlarge the soul and spirit of man."

In his address, Pres. Lee said, "We celebrate today a landmark event in the history of Brigham Young University and I am indeed honored that it came true on my watch."

Then he said, "This museum and the many artworks that will be displayed here, both those that belong to us and also those that we will now be able to attract because of the quality of the museum, will be among the cultural gems of the Rocky Mountain area, not only in the state of Utah, but in many surrounding states as well."

He said the greatest strength of the museum will be how it enriches academic programs at BYU.

"While it is true that it is not technically an academic building because it was not built with tithing funds, it is very definitely a part, an indispensable part, of our total educational offering," he said.

Brother Mason then spoke, giving an overview of the development and nature of the museum. He explained how its shape, configuration, lighting and environment were designed to maximize its value as an art museum.

"From the beginning," he said, "we were determined to have a museum that did more than hang and store artworks. We wanted a center where aesthetic treasures could be preserved, restored and displayed under conditions that invite contemplation. With this new center for the arts, students of all ages have the opportunity to enjoy the finest cultural achievements while sharpening perception, raising visual intelligence and enlightening perspectives."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed