New Art Museum Rises Near the Front Door of Campus

Author: Margaret Fosmoe ’85

Raclin Murphy Rendering

Notre Dame’s art treasures will soon have a new home near the southern edge of campus, just across the street from Eddy Street Commons and in the heart of the University’s “arts district.”

Construction began in April on the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, which is expected to open in fall 2023. The prominent location will offer better access to art enthusiasts from campus and the community.

“It will be a new welcoming entity. It will be a way for the University to reach out to the community and the world,” says Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of Notre Dame’s current Snite Museum of Art.

The museum site occupies the northwest corner of the Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, a contemplative place of winding pathways and native trees and plants that features large sculptures by such artists as Deborah Butterfield, David Nash and Jaume Plensa.

The University has been planning a new art museum for many years, announcing it as part of a master plan update in 2007. The emerging arts district currently includes the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Walsh Family Hall of Architecture, O’Neill Hall of Music and the sculpture garden.

New York-based Robert A.M. Stern Architects created the new building’s classical design.

Notre Dame’s art collection started in 1875, when a gallery of portraits by Italian artist Luigi Gregori opened in the third- and fourth-floor corridors of the former Main Building. The diverse collection has grown to include nearly 30,000 objects, ranging from photography and Rembrandt etchings to European paintings, Mesoamerican figures and modern works.

As campus has grown, the Snite has become more isolated from main campus roadways and parking lots, making it less approachable. The new museum will have dedicated parking as well as a drop-off area for visitors and school buses.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Snite drew about 50,000 visitors annually. But when it was more accessible, it sometimes hosted as many as 100,000 visitors a year, Becherer says.

Plans for the new museum call for a 132,000-square-foot complex to be constructed in two phases. It will offer larger exhibit and education spaces for Notre Dame courses and K-12 groups, while adding a café, retail space, a multistory indoor sculpture court, an object-study room and a chapel dedicated to Our Lady, Queen of Families.

Once exhibits have moved into the new museum, the former Snite space will continue to house museum offices and serve as the primary storage space for the art collection. It will also present a prototype of a works-on-paper research center for the study of prints, drawings and photographs that will be created in the museum’s second phase.

A major gift for construction of the new museum was provided by Ernestine Raclin and her daughter and son-in-law, Carmi and Christopher Murphy ’68, all of South Bend. Raclin is a trustee emerita of Notre Dame.

The Snite Museum of Art opened in 1980. It was funded by the Snite family in memory of Frederick B. Snite Jr. ’33, who died in 1954.

Margaret Fosmoe is an associate editor of this magazine.