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National Art Museum of Sport to disband; collection acquired by Children’s Museum

May 3, 2017

More than 900 works from the National Art Museum of Sports—in storage since the organization vacated the former University Place Conference Center and Hotel—have found a new home.

The collection will become part of the 7.5-acre Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which is scheduled to open in March 2018.

The deal, signed April 12, was announced Wednesday afternoon.

The works will be featured in an indoor pavilion adjacent to the existing Children’s Museum facility and accessible from the atrium. Although the collection was gifted, the additional facility, staffing and other expenses add $3.5 million to the sports project’s overall budget, boosting it to $38.5 million.

“We want to create two endowment funds, $1 million for curatorial and a $1 million programming fund,” Children’s Museum President and CEO Jeffrey Patchen told IBJ. “It wasn’t just a matter of adding 3,000 square feet onto the pavilion."

Patchen said he'd "been aware of the collection for many years and impressed by it. When we heard of the possibility of receiving it, we were thrilled.”

As of its last appraisal in 2004, the National Art Museum of Sports collection was worth just under $3 million, according Kathleen McNeely, NAMOS board chair.

The well-travelled collection was originally housed in New York, where it spent time in Madison Square Garden before being displayed at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, and the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis. From there, it moved around Indianapolis before settling at the University Place Conference Center and Hotel. Since vacating there, it has been held in storage by the NCAA.

McNeely, who also serves as senior vice president of administration and chief financial officer of the NCAA, said there was no guarantee that the collection would remain in Indiana. Discussions took place with representatives of facilities in other cities, including New York and Los Angeles, but none of those options satisfied the board, which became increasingly uncomfortable with the collection remaining in storage, “especially in the last year where we no longer had an executive director.”

She’s pleased with the arrangement with the Children’s Museum. “It has incredible traffic,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for the collection to be seen by millions of people. And it’s financially very stable. They do a wonderful job in fundraising and that was important to us.”

Although plans aren’t solidified, Patchen envisions up to 150 pieces on display at any given time in permanent and temporary exhibits as well as room for interactive displays and a hands-on studio where visitors can create their own work inspired by pieces from the collection. Once the endowment is in place, Patchen plans on hiring a full-time curator.

For now, Sharon Theobald of Appraisal Associates International, who has worked with both organizations in the past, is assisting with the move.

“It’s a wide collection, international and national in its scope,” said Theobald, pointing out that it not only includes work by famed sports artist LeRoy Neiman and others but also American masters such as Winslow Homer. Portraits of Larry Bird, Arthur Ashe and other sports legends play a prominent role as well. “There are many halls of fame but this is the only national sports art museum in America,” she added.

The process of moving items out of storage at the NCAA and into climate-controlled space at the Children’s Museum has already started. Meanwhile, documents have already been filed to disolve NAMOS with the hopes that audits will be completed, accounts cleared and the board disbanded by the end of the year.

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