San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum, which was the first modern art museum in Texas and today houses a collection of over 20,000 objects, has announced the completion of the first phase of its Landscape Master Plan. First announced in September of 2019, the outdoor endeavor seeks to fulfill a plan first laid out by former Board Chairman Tom Frost, Director Emeritus William J. Chiego, and an assortment of Trustees. Phase I has reshaped the grounds of the McNay and extended its footprint from 23 to 25 acres. The price tag for the transformation is reported at $6.25 million, and was paid with funds that include $2 million from the Mays Family Foundation, $1 million from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, $500,000 from the Frost Family and Frost Bank, and $500,000 from the Semmes Foundation, Inc.
As previously reported by Christopher Blay for Glasstire, the renovation included the purchase of multiple large-scale outdoor sculptures which now adorn the grounds of the museum. In addition to the three previously announced works by Alejandro Martín, Tom Wesselmann, and Willie Cole (the first outdoor work by a Black artist in the McNay’s collection), there is a fourth new sculpture, titled Deer, by Tony Tasset. Based in Chicago, Tasset is a sculptor known for his large-scale outdoor installations. His piece Eye, which is an oversized eyeball with a blue iris, was vandalized during protests in Dallas last year. Deer, meanwhile, depicts a massive white-tailed deer.
A press release from the McNay details the changes that have been made to the landscape outside the museum during Phase I:
Dense hedges along the edge of the property have been replaced with see-through fencing and native drought-resistant plantings to increase the visibility of the Museum and grounds from the street. One hundred forty-two new trees and 7,892 shrubs, ornamental grasses, and perennials across 40 species of native and adapted plant material were introduced throughout the grounds. Plant species include Bald Cypress, Texas Redbud, Palo Verde, Sweet Acacia, Dwarf Yaupon, Upright Rosemary, Yucca, Mexican Feathergrass, Sage, and more. A Beautification Fund chaired by McNay Trustee Amy Stieren was generously raised to ensure all plantings are maintained for the next five years.
Elsewhere in the press release, Don Frost, President of the McNay Board of Trustees, pays tribute to his late father Tom. The elder Frost, once Board Chairman at the McNay, was the fourth generation leader of Frost Bank. “This moment honors the legacy and spirit of my father and his vision for what this beloved institution could become,” said Don Frost.
As part of the renovation, the road leading into the museum from North New Braunfels Avenue is now Tom Frost Way. The Austin Highway entrance, meanwhile, has been renamed the Russell Hill Rogers Sculpture Gateway, in honor of the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for The Arts, an organization that awards grants to creative and performing arts groups in Bexar County. More than just a rebranding, each portal to the museum has received a major facelift as part of the redesign. “Both campus entrances were reimagined with new entry and exit gates, enhanced signage, improved lighting, and wider roads that create an easier and safer two-way traffic flow,” explains the press release.
In reference to the remodel, McNay Director and CEO Richard Aste said that the organization is “just getting started.” Details on Phase II of the project are yet to be released. For more information, please visit the McNay Art Museum’s website.