McMurtry Building opens: Stanford's newest building spotlights art and art history

On Oct. 6, Stanford Board of Trustees Chair Steven Denning formally accepted the McMurtry Buildingfor the Department of Art & Art History. It is the first new building to open this academic year. The building dedication was one of several celebratory events on Tuesday.

The McMurtry Building at Stanford University, the new home of the Department of Art & Art History, offers new studios and classrooms for the students as well as new galleries and views for the community.

“Stanford is known for its strong sense of place,” Denning said at the building’s dedication. “The McMurtry Building dramatically expands on that tradition. … It is a very distinctive building – a work of art itself – with an innovative design that incorporates traditional elements.”

Charles Renfro, architect of the building and partner-in-charge of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, started the day off with a media tour of the building. A group of writers and editors who have been following all the arts district projects started on the terrace above Oshman Hall and wove their way through the Ute & Bill Bowes Art & Architecture Library, studio and classroom spaces, and Anthony McCall’s art installation to end the tour under the central oculus in the atrium.

“The end of a project is bittersweet,” said Renfro. “While it’s wonderful to see people using and enjoying your handiwork, it’s hard to relinquish ownership. So, to officially let go and turn the building into a proper art facility, I mixed some paint the same color as my suit, lest there be drips, and flung it all over the painting studio. An art school can’t be precious.”



After the media reception, Renfro gave the Cantor Arts Center’s Bobbie and Mike Wilsey Distinguished Lecture. He spoke about the design philosophy behind his body of work to a capacity crowd at Bing Concert Hall.

The festivities moved back across Palm Drive in the afternoon to the Oshman Family Lawn at the Cantor Arts Center for the building dedication ceremony. Several hundred Stanford community members and McMurtry friends and family and donors attended the private ceremony, where Stanford President John Hennessy; Richard Saller, dean of Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences; Burt and Deedee McMurtry; and Denning gave remarks and expressed gratitude for the building.

In talking about the development of the arts district and the McMurtry Building’s place in it, Hennessy said: “We wanted every student – whatever their majors, whatever their interests – to know and experience the arts as central to their daily lives. … When I shared the vision we had for this building with Burt and Deedee – that it would be the academic centerpiece of the arts district – they understood and were quick to lend their support.”

Hennessy toasted the McMurtrys at the dedication dinner later in the evening, and the McMurtrys closed the evening with final remarks after receiving two special gifts to commemorate the project: a model of the sculptural bench in the building’s atrium designed by artist Yulia Pinkusevich, MFA ’12, with Sam Cuttriss, and a small oil painting of the building by Yvette Deas, MFA ’12, framed in zinc and wood, two materials that are used throughout the McMurtry Building.

Reflecting on the many events of the day, Deedee McMurtry said that she and her husband, Burt, “really enjoyed seeing the reactions of the media in the morning, and we were thrilled with the events later in the day. We had high expectations for the building, and it has exceeded them. We think it will be a real hub of activity for all students.”