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Museum of Fine Arts brushes up appearance

August 31, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - After nearly three weeks spent brightening the walls and polishing clean the evidence of some 300,000 feet, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is back in business.

The museum, which closed for renovations Aug. 7, reopened Saturday with buffed floors and repainted galleries.

"Anything that can be painted was repainted," museum director Joe Ruzicka said during an informal tour of the facility.

During the shutdown, contractors tore carpeting out of three galleries, restoring the original 1931 wood flooring in two rooms, while laying down a nut brown-and-black cork surface in the other, Ruzicka said. The museum budgeted $75,000 for the project, which ultimately could cost $45,000 to $50,000, he said.

The museum's artwork was moved into storage before the work began, Ruzicka said.

"Basically, we had an entire museum without any art in it. Basically," Ruzicka said.

When workers replaced the art, the Boyd A. Mason Jr. Memorial Gallery was redecorated with different works with a 19th-century mid-Atlantic theme. A still life, "Fish, Plate and Copper Container," by William Merritt Chase, hangs just outside the gallery in the hallway, with one horrified-looking fish keeping watch.

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"It's beautiful, it's magnificent," Ruzicka said of the work, which is on display for the first time since being restored.

The changes at the museum come just in time for its 75th anniversary celebration. "Our Fondest Dreams & Hopes: Celebrating 75 Years," will open Sept. 15 in the large Groh Gallery, Ruzicka said.

About 75,000 people visit the museum each year.

Though the floors are repolished every two years, the work over the past three weeks was the biggest renovation in a number of years. During the 1990s, the museum added a section and enclosed the Diana of the Chase Gallery with glass, Ruzicka said.

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