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New Booth Western Art Museum addition opens Oct. 10

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The new gallery space at Booth Western Art Museum is more open, giving each glance more to explore. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville will open a 40,000-square foot expansion on Saturday, one that doubles exhibition space and reorganizes much the art already on the walls. (Look here for more photos from the museum.)

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Photo courtesy the Booth Western Art Museum

It’s a remarkable change for a relatively new museum, especially one outside a major city and on the far reaches of a metro area. The Booth opened in 2003 with 80,000 square feet filled with Western art – older romantic landscapes and scenes, but even more contemporary pieces influenced by or reacting to more traditional Western styles. The new wing brings more collection pieces out from the basement, opens more temporary exhibition space and adds new amenities like a 250-person banquet area.

The new wing also comes with a new price — admission fees are going up about $2.

Executive Director Seth Hopkins told me this week that he always expected the Booth to expand, but not until it had been open for 10 or 15 years. But as the museum drew 40,ooo to 50,000 visitors per year, and the collection continued to grow with purchases and pieces borrowed from collectors and the Smithsonian Affiliates program, sooner seemed better.

It’s been a big few years for museums in Cartersville. Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum opened there last year. Both are run by the non-profit Georgia Museums, Inc., which also runs the Bartow History Museum. (I wrote about Tellus and its new Smithsonian Affiliation a few months ago.)

So what will you see if you visit the Booth this weekend?

You’ll walk into the same building, but it won’t look quite the same.
The information desk and gift shop are still the first things in view, but once you get into the galleries, you’ll notice that what’s on the walls has been tweaked. As Hopkins explains it, there’s now more new-to-the-Booth works  on the walls of the old building than in the new building. The Booth had long made its mission to showcase more contemporary art, but most of that has gone into the new wing. That left more room in the old building for classics — the Remingtons and Russells visitors were always looking for, plus works brought out from storage or remaining from temporary shows like this year’s “Black West” show.

A subtle shift into the new building.
You’ll hardly notice when you step from the old building into the new one. They used the same architect, the design elements, even the same Bulgarian limestone from the same quarry. What you will notice, though, is a different type of gallery. The old building is made up of well-defined rooms that explore themes from Western art — first people, cowboys and Indians, portraits. The new space is wide open, with higher ceilings better suited for modern art, Hopkins says. Works are still grouped by theme, but there’s more to take in with one glance.

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"Looking Back" by artist Willem Volkersz. Hopkins calls it "perfect" for the Booth Museum's new space.

More perspectives on the West.
The museum always covered the romantic ideas of West over time, but it had relatively little to show about American Indians who lived, moved or traveled there. That changes with the new wing, where more than 200 American Indian artifacts from Atlanta area collectors will go on display, along with more sculpture, paintings and pop art. They have historic significance, they’re really presented as works of art, with attention to craftsmanship and medium. I was surprised, honestly, by the diversity revealed throughout the museum. Western art seems like the territory of white men (and yes, much of it still is), but the newly reorganized museum shows depictions of women, black, American Indian and Chinese people by a more diverse group of artists.

A newly reorganized Civil War room.
If you head to the gallery that used to hold Civil War art, you’ll bump into an empty space — the new plan is to use it for temporary exhibitions. A new Civil War gallery details the story and timeline of the war through works of art. Again, it’s got a lot of the same types of works in it, but it’s bigger.

Many of the same things that 40,000 some visitors experienced before.
There’s  still a children’s area with a few dozen stations for making art, learning about the history of the West and understanding western art. There’s still a presidential portrait gallery with and letters signed by every president, except, so far, Barack Obama.  (Expect to see this expanded into first ladies and vice presidents in coming years.) There’s still a research library and full-time librarian. On school days, children are everywhere. This weekend, expect a crowd.

Want to go? Booth Western Art Museum, 501 Museum Dr., Cartersville. $10 for adults, $8 for people ages 65 and older, $7 for students, free for members, children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult, active military. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 770-387-1300, www.boothmuseum.org.

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