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Expansion and Renovation Updates

Community-Informed Planning Continued in 2024

With your input, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is embarking on an expansion and renovation project that will enable the museum to share more art, welcome more visitors, and provide more enjoyment on a seamless journey through the collections. Guided by the museum’s current Strategic Plan, this expansion project is part of a continuum in VMFA’s growth, and it involves input from youour VMFA community. Through surveys and public events led by Community Engagement for Museum Expansion (CEME), we listened and used your input to shape this next chapter in VMFA history.  

Expanding Spaces, Storytelling, and Visitor Experiences

The addition of approximately 170,000 square feet, named the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing II, will provide for the following:  

  • a second major suite of special-exhibition galleries to allow for continuous world-class exhibitions  
  • new and expanded galleries for American art, African art, Native American art, 21st-Century art, Modern European art, and Photography 
  • additional storage for the museum’s growing art collection 
  • a versatile special-events space with the ability to host five hundred seated guests 
  • an additional entrance facing the Sculpture Garden 

Plans for this additional wing include the preservation of the beloved E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden and its four acres of green space.

Renovations to approximately 45,000 square feet will include the following: 

  • new and expanded gallery spaces for European art and East Asian art  
  • a new Frank Raysor Center for Works on Paper, to include conservation studios, storage, and public study rooms 
  • a new and expanded Leslie Cheek Theater to accommodate larger performances and productions 
  • an expanded Art Education Center for children, featuring new interactive galleries and classroom spaces 
  • improvements and enhancements to accessibility for visitors and staff of all abilities  
  • back-of-house renovations to meet operational needs in support of the museum’s growing collections and programs

Community Engagement for Museum Expansion (CEME)

Over the past two years, VMFA held multiple two-way listening sessions led by Community Engagement for Museum Expansion (CEME). Pronounced “see me,” CEME strives to ensure that you—visitors, VMFA members, and the community at large—see your input and ideas reflected in the completed expansion.

In public sessions at VMFA and locations across Richmond and beyond, CEME held sessions to engage a diverse range of groups and communities including the following:

  • Asian American Society of Virginia 
  • Oakwood Arts in Church Hill 
  • Richmond Night Market 
  • VCU School of the Arts students
  • Tephra Institute in Reston
  • John Marshall High School students  
  • Chesterfield County Library

Thanks to your input, architectural designs, which are still in progress, include plans to implement the following:

Architecture that is futuristic yet compatible
Improved accessibility
Intuitive wayfinding
Connectivity between indoor and outdoor spaces
Additional spaces for pause and reflection
Activation and preservation of the Sculpture Garden
Photos by Sandra Sellars© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Community Engagement for Museum Expansion task force conducted a discussion group with Church Hill residents in the East End at Oakwood Arts, Oct. 20, 2022.

Engage with Us

  • Subscribe to our weekly email to learn about upcoming CEME events.
  • Take the surveyThis expansion and renovation project is, at its core, about creating new narratives and broadening our storytelling. We want you to see yourself reflected at VMFA—in the art, in the space, and in the planning. Thus far, we’ve heard from more than 3,500 survey participants.
  • Check back here for details on upcoming CEME informational sessions, which you can attend to learn about our progress.

Track our progress here! 

  • Discovery 
  • Community engagement and feedback
  • Design development and planning
  • Construction 
  • Unveiling celebration open to the public 

A Continuum of Growth

Each expansion milestone in the museum’s long history is part of a continuum of growth and evolution. Since 1936, when VMFA first opened its doors, the museum has grown into a world-class cultural destination and dynamic urban center that is dedicated to its mission “to enrich the lives of all.”
We’re excited to enter this next chapter in VMFA history together. And in our efforts to share more art, welcome more visitors, and provide more enjoyment on a seamless journey through the collections, the aim is simple—to broaden our storytelling and remain trusted stewards of your cherished museum.


Soon after the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing opened in 2010, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) received a significant planned gift from Margaret B. and Arthur G. Glasgow to support the acquisition of new works of art. The museum’s collection has nearly doubled in size since then and now comprises nearly 50,000 works of art, all of which belong to the people of Virginia. The new wing will provide additional galleries to display the permanent collection, a second special exhibition gallery space, and an events space that can seat up to 500 people for dinner. Renovations to existing spaces will allow more works of art to be shown and displayed in a more cohesive, comprehensive way, improving the visitor experience, wayfinding, and access.

VMFA’s expansion design phase will take two years with groundbreaking expected in 2025. Construction will take an additional three years, and the new wing is slated to open in 2028.

We do not anticipate closing the entire museum during construction, and special exhibitions will continue to be available to visitors. While VMFA is undergoing expansion and renovation, some art collections will be removed from the galleries that are impacted by or adjacent to the construction area. More information about which collections will be removed from view and when is forthcoming.

VMFA’s new wing will be added to the 1985 Mellon and Lewis West Wing, on the museum’s west and south facades, along Grove Avenue and facing towards the Robins Sculpture Garden and Sheppard Street.

Currently VMFA comprises 650,000 square feet. The latest expansion plans call for a new wing that will provide approximately 170,000 gross square feet of total space. In addition to new construction, the museum will carry out approximately 45,000 square feet of renovations to the existing building, including improvements to the Leslie Cheek Theater.

The galleries along the Great Hall and surrounding Evans Court will be reconfigured to present VMFA’s European art collections in a more coherent and continuous narrative. Additionally, new photography galleries and the Frank Raysor Center for the Study of Works on Paper will occupy the previous location of the American art collections. The Leslie Cheek Theater will be renovated to expand the stage, improve lighting, add assistive listening devices, and bring the space into ADA compliance. Portions of the Westrock Art Education Center will also be renovated and expanded.

No. Preserving the Robins Sculpture Garden is at the forefront of VMFA’s expansion project because it is such an important space for the community. The new wing is situated in an area of the Sculpture Garden adjacent to the 1985 Mellon and Lewis Wing that is rarely used by our visitors. VMFA will maintain four acres of green space, including the areas that our visitors currently use, such as the Belvedere Terrace over the parking deck and the spaces adjacent to the pond and Chihuly’s Red Reeds. The Confederate Memorial Chapel, located on VMFA’s campus, is considered the largest artwork in our collection and will remain on its current site and open throughout the expansion.

While the expansion and renovation project is still in the design phase, Marble Hall will not undergo major changes and is expected to remain an event space.

Additional parking is being considered during the expansion design process, which is not yet complete.

VMFA has selected the international architecture firm SmithGroup to plan and design its next visitor-centered expansion and renovation project. SmithGroup, one of the world’s preeminent integrated design firms, creates exceptional design solutions for healthcare, science and technology organizations, higher education and cultural institutions, urban environments, workplaces, mixed-use and waterfront developments, and parks and open spaces. SmithGroup was selected following an international search that followed the Commonwealth’s established process of architect selection for state projects.


The award-winning firm’s extensive portfolio includes several impressive national museum projects such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections and Conservation Center in Maryland, the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, as well as the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. SmithGroup is currently designing the re-envisioned Thomas Gilcrease Museum of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The firm’s work is recognized locally as well: SmithGroup designed the concept for the National Slavery Museum at the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre for the City of Richmond.

The Commonwealth will contribute $125 million toward these capital improvements as a 2:1 match, meaning that for every dollar raised from private sources the state will provide two dollars. The total budget for VMFA’s expansion project is more than $190 million.

VMFA will continue its current admission practice: permanent collection galleries will remain free to visitors while some special exhibitions will be ticketed.