MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Metal Museum has plans for a river bluff attraction that’s literally forged its name in the field of metalworking.
The National Ornamental Metal Museum, which opened in 1979, will be relocating some of its operations to the former home of the Memphis College of Art in Overton Park.
The move will cost about $25 million and take almost three years to complete.
The Memphis College of Art closed its doors in 2020 after 81 years. Debt and falling enrollment were blamed for the closure.
Carissa Hussong, the executive director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, said the decision to expand some of the museum’s operations to the vacant Rust Hall at the Memphis College of Art comes as the River Bluff location is simply running out of space.
“When you come here you feel so far away from the rest of the city. It’s really this peaceful, beautiful location on the river but it is also hard to get to,” Hussong said.
The new site will be easier for the public to reach.
“It’s very central, it’s easy to get to, you can ride your bike there, you can walk, you can take public transportation and that was something that was really appealing to us,” Hussong said.
Good news for Phillip Inge, who lives near the vacant College of Art and is a Metal Museum fan.
“We’re thrilled. We think it’s going to be a great fit,” Inge said.
The move means more space for exhibitions, permanent collections, and instructional classes and more room for a working blacksmith and foundry.
The Metal Museum has a 100-year lease agreement with the City of Memphis at just one dollar a year. The museum has raised half of the projected $25 million costs.
While the Metal Museum is moving into an architectural masterpiece, plans are to keep the historical location near the I-55 bridge for an artist in residency program.
That means more space and time to create or work on commissioned projects with artists able to devote their full time and concentration to what they love.
“We’re sort of at capacity on every front of the museum here. Our collection and our exhibits will be able to grow substantially. We’ll have much more room for showing new artwork that comes in, new acquisitions,” said lead blacksmith Jacob Brown.