By Howard Pousner
The Museum of Design Atlanta will move in January from its longtime home inside Peachtree Center downtown, where it has received limited foot traffic, to the ground floor of a Midtown building across from the High Museum of Art.
Executive director Brenda Galina believes the higher-profile location and potential synergy with the High, which is currently showing two strong design shows (on contemporary European style and vintage luxury automobiles), could usher in a new era for MODA. It is the Southeast’s only museum devoted to the study and celebration of all things design.
“It’s a new day and an exciting time for us, and it will present so many wonderful opportunities,” Galina said. “Being in the Midtown arts district, it’s going to be a whole different feeling.”
The building at Peachtree and 16th streets is being renovated for the architectural firm Perkins + Will. The firm’s president, Phil Harrison, and one of its architects, Bruce McEvoy, are on MODA’s board and suggested the move. Perkins + Will in fact is covering design and construction costs of the 9,000-square-foot gallery space estimated at $1.5 million.
“Everybody wins,” Harrison said in a written statement. “We were looking for a tenant in a related field, and we could not have done better than MODA.”
MODA will inaugurate the space in January with “Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle,” featuring nine “masterpieces of Italian motorcycle design” from the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Ala. (outside Birmingham). That exhibit will be followed by “Something Borrowed, Something New: Wedding Fashions Around the World,” “Water Dream: Experience the Bathroom Like Never Before” and “Graphic Intervention: 30 Years of International AIDS Posters.”
Galina has met with High officials including decorative arts and design curator Ron Labaco to begin conversations about potential collaborations that would expand MODA’s programming and outreach to school groups.
“We just have to wait and see how the opportunities present themselves,” she said. “But it’s just such an obvious thing. We’re going to have children unloading out of buses, coming for educational opportunities in both places, so why can’t we combine some of that?”
With an annual budget of $800,000 and a full-time staff of two, MODA has enjoyed free rent at the Marriott Marquis Tower, so there’s a risk in moving.
“It’s the gamble of the Western world,” Galina said, “but I think it’s a worthwhile one for us.”