Due to a $2.5 million gift from longtime supporters Liz and Tommy Farnsworth, the fine art museum and public garden is building a 6,000-square-foot addition. The project is its first expansion since 1985.
Over the past 10 years, the museum’s art education programs have grown from a handful a year to now nearly 30 different programs for people of all ages.
“We’ve been doing all of this in one art studio, that I have to share for meeting space, catered food — it’s a multipurpose room,” said Margarita Sandino, the Dixon’s director of education.
Though Sandino has gotten creative — hosting classes in galleries and throughout the 17-acre gardens — the new Liz and Tommy Farnsworth Education Building will give her a dedicated space with classrooms, prep areas, studio space, office space, storage and bathrooms.
The building will connect to the Stout Gallery, which now houses the museum’s porcelain collection, on the northeastern side of the gardens and feature an interactive gallery with student art work.
“We see the need for the city to have more access to the arts in general, so we do what we can,” Sandino said. “A lot of outreach participants end up coming back to the Dixon, so making those connections is important.”
In 2017, about 38,000 people participated in Dixon Experiences, which breaks down to 18,000 onsite education program participants and about 20,000 who experienced the museum’s outreach opportunities.
“Liz and I have wanted to do something meaningful for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. I particularly wanted to honor Liz’s long service on the Dixon board and her history there,” said Tommy Farnsworth, Jr., in a prepared statement.
Liz Farnsworth added, “I have always loved the Dixon since moving to Memphis 38 years ago. It is such a very special place, a true Memphis gem.”
Designed by Memphis architect Brady Moore, the new building will keep with the Dixon’s original Neo-Georgian architecture.
Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. has been selected as the general contractor. Janet Perry of J. Banks Design Group on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, is the interior designer.
The Dixon anticipates breaking ground in late April or May, with plans to occupy the building by early spring 2019.