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I.M. Pei, world-renowned architect of the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art, turns 100

Apr 28, 2017
Exterior shot of the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art

On April 26, world-renowned architect I.M. Pei celebrated his 100th birthday.

While Pei’s architectural influence spans the globe – from the glass pyramid entrance at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, to the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong – his vision has also made a significant impact right here in Indiana and at Indiana University.

I.M. Pei’s centennial comes at a significant moment in IU’s history as its top-rated art museum, designed by Pei, begins a $30 million renovation and IU’s School of Art and Design prepares to welcome the inaugural class to its newly approved Master of Architecture.

Completed in 1982, Indiana University’s art museum continues to be a beacon for the arts in our university community and across Indiana. Last year, we welcomed over 90,000 visitors to the museum, and almost 15,000 were students. Over the past 35 years, hundreds of thousands of IU students and school-age students from surrounding communities have entered the museum to be inspired by our art collections and explore the beauty of Pei’s architectural vision.

In 2016, the name of the museum was changed to the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University to honor the gift of two dedicated alumni. This gift will enable the museum to update the building so future generations of students, faculty and community members can continue to commune with the art spirit that is so strongly present in our museum.

The museum will close to the public starting May 15, 2017, and is expected to reopen by the fall semester of 2019. Before the museum closes, it will be celebrating I.M. Pei’s 100th birthday at its last major public event, First Thursdays Festival, from 5 to 8 p.m. May 4.

I.M. Pei with an umbrella
World-renowned architect I.M. Pei in Bloomington, Indiana, while working on the design of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in 1981.Photo courtesy of the Eskenazi Museum of Art

In honor of Pei, the museum will be giving away 1,000 triangle-shaped brownies, mirroring the shape of the building. A variety of other activities including live music, food, drink, art-making and gallery games will be taking place as well, celebrating the museum before it closes for renovations. This event is free and open to the public.

On March 9, 2017, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the creation of a Master of Architecture at Indiana University Bloomington in the newly formed School of Art and Design. The school will accept its first class in 2018, and they will begin their studies in Columbus, Indiana, that fall semester.

The degree will be developed in collaboration with the Columbus community, including the Columbus Architectural Archives and the Institute for Coalition Building of the Columbus Education Coalition. It builds on the IU Center for Art and Design, which opened in 2011 in downtown Columbus to provide upper-level courses in design. The program will blend architecture with principles of art and design, provide students with a robust background in coalition building and community partnership, and feature a strong international component and access to courses, seminars, exhibitions and other opportunities through the School of Art and Design. 

Indiana University’s engagement with the community and the modernist traditions in Columbus will be a foundation of the program. The Bartholomew County Public Library and Plaza in downtown Columbus, another building designed by I.M. Pei, will be a signature component of the young architect’s education at IU, teaching how civic consciousness is created by the formation of public space in relation to its neighboring buildings.

With the museum renovation and the creation of the new master’s degree, it is an exciting time for art and architecture at Indiana University. We are deeply grateful for the influence of I.M. Pei, one of the world’s leading architects, on enhancing the university’s ability to lead in these areas, and we wish him a very happy 100th birthday!

Kristen Dake is a communications content manager at IU’s School of Art and Design; Abe Morris is the manager of public relations and marketing at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art​; and Sarah Tosick is a correspondence specialist for the IU Office of the President.

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