ArtQuest Undergoing Major Renovation

On Monday, January 29, the Frist Art Museum began a complete renovation of the Martin ArtQuest Gallery (MAQ). The sixteen-year-old hands-on art-making space serves as a premier destination for families, children, and school groups to explore art. Scheduled to reopen on Thursday, May 24, the updated gallery will feature enhanced activities focused on creative collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.

The innovative redesign will bring fresh energy to the beloved resource, which to date has served nearly 1.5 million visitors of all abilities. “The great success of the gallery is directly related to the abiding passion and generosity of Ellen Martin and the Martin Foundation, who from the very early planning stages of the Frist Art Museum played an integral part in the creation of this multigenerational and educational space,” says Frist Art Museum executive director Dr. Susan H. Edwards.

Upon opening in 2001, MAQ was at the forefront of museum education and became widely regarded as a leading interactive gallery. “MAQ’s success is truly gratifying, but constant use and love over the past sixteen years have taken a significant toll on equipment and furnishings,” says Frist Art Museum director of education and outreach Anne Henderson. “The existing infrastructure is at the end of its life expectancy. Materials used to build the original stations have been discontinued, and software that was cutting-edge when installed in 2001—before the advent of smartphones—is no longer able to keep pace with current technology.”

During the renovation, hands-on art-making activities will still be available to Frist Art Museum visitors. Now through May 23, some of the existing art stations and activities are in the adjacent studio classroom spaces on the upper level of the Frist Art Museum.

HOURS (MAQ in the studios):
Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00–5:30 p.m.


The New MAQ
Dynamic new activities as well as old favorites will be housed in an inviting and refreshed space.

• Drawing, painting, printmaking, and other popular stations will return, with improved functionality and variety.
• The exploration of the moving image will include a large zoetrope, a shadow theater, and stop-motion animation.
• A 16-foot interactive wall composed of color-changing dials will allow visitors to create large-scale designs using the full spectrum of colors.
• Visitors will be invited to contribute to a collaborative textile-weaving installation using a large six-sided grid.
• A full-body digital experience will transform visitors into colors and shapes.
• Activities that explore Frist Art Museum exhibitions, artists, and ideas will include new opportunities for visitor participation, dialogue, and response.
• In coming years, contemporary artists will be invited to design new interactive stations and to keep the space fresh and engaging.

The design responds to the prevalent cultural interest in hands-on learning as well as the increased popularity of shared learning and social media across generations. The changes also incorporate research findings from the four-year Family Learning in Interactive Galleries (FLING) research study funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, co-led by the Frist Art Museum, the Speed Museum (Louisville), and the High Museum of Art (Atlanta). “Conversations with Frist Art Museum families revealed the value they placed on interactive galleries as safe places to relax and unwind while engaging in rich sensory activities that foster a love and understanding of art,” says Henderson. “We have based our approach on visitor feedback. MAQ’s fundamental concepts will remain consistent. Art-making stations will continue to emphasize fundamental principles of art, and activities will be based on original works of art that correspond with current exhibitions on view in our galleries.”

While MAQ’s physical footprint will stay the same, the renovation will greatly expand the functionality and flexibility of the existing space, allowing for clear sight lines. Accessibility for all visitors remains a core commitment in the renovation. To address environmental issues that may affect visitors, sound baffling will be added to reduce noise, and light will be increased throughout the gallery to enhance visibility.

Grand Reopening
Thursday, May 24

Please join us on Thursday, May 24, for the grand reopening of ArtQuest, with new stations and old favorites within MAQ to explore and enjoy. A members-only ribbon-cutting and preview will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with Ellen H. Martin, who has championed MAQ as a special place for children and families. MAQ will open to the community at 3:00 p.m., with free admission to all galleries through the rest of the day.

We also thank the Frist Foundation, the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, Corner Partnership, LLC, the William Stamps Farish Fund, and visitors of all ages for their financial support of the renovation.

The Frist Art Museum welcomes gifts of any amount to support this renovation. Thank you!




The Frist Art Museum is deeply grateful to our generous Martin ArtQuest Gallery Benefactors:

  • Ellen H. Martin, Charles N. Martin, and the Martin Foundation
  • The Cal Turner Family Foundation
  • The William Stamps Farish Fund


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