Lighting sustainability at Weatherspoon Art Museum

Posted on October 05, 2021

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Gallery at Weatherspoon Art Museum

The Weatherspoon Art Museum will renovate the lighting system in one of the museum’s galleries thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, as part of the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative. 

This initiative is the first nation-wide program to support energy efficiency and clean energy projects in the visual arts.

The initiative funds arts institutions’ efforts to improve sustainability and climate responsibility. The Weatherspoon is a member of the inaugural cohort of this grant opportunity and is the only recipient in North Carolina. 

The grant will support the long-term goal of upgrading the Weatherspoon’s lighting from outmoded incandescent bulbs to those with new light-emitting diode (LED) technology. This will improve the experience of viewing artworks for museum attendees, and the modern and energy-efficient lighting will both lower operating costs and reduce the museum’s energy usage.

“The museum was built in 1989 and has had very limited upgrades to its infrastructure over the last three decades.” says Elaine D. Gustafson, the Weatherspoon’s curator of collections. “This grant contributes to the museum’s ongoing efforts to improve the lighting conditions over time and create an exceptional visitor experience, while leading by example and engaging in energy savings.”  

The Weatherspoon joins 79 museums across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, in committing to climate responsibility in their communities. By improving the viewing experience for visitors and enhancing the Weatherspoon’s sustainability, this gift allows the museum to better its own responsibility to the environment and to serve as an example to other institutions.

“At UNCG, we have a proven track record of being leaders in mitigating climate change challenges through our sustainable practices in operations, construction, education, and research,” says Sameer Kapileshwari, associate vice chancellor for facilities. “In the past twenty years we have reduced our energy use intensity by over 24% and our water consumption per gross square-footage by over 75%.”

Kapileshwari explained the significance of this grant. “Doing LED lighting retrofits at the Weatherspoon will offer many environmental advantages. LEDs are known to be significantly more efficient than fluorescent or incandescent lights. Due to their long life spans, these fixtures also offer a significant reduction in maintenance labor hours associated with routine light replacements. LEDs are also non-toxic when compared to their fluorescent counterparts. This is particularly beneficial when the lights are disposed of at their end of useful life by preventing toxic elements from releasing out and contaminating the environment.”

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation was established by artist Helen Frankenthaler as a venue to advance the arts through various philanthropic efforts. The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative is a new initiative to support sustainability and climate responsibility in the visual arts through a series of grants. The initiative builds on the foundation’s emphasis on the social impact of its philanthropy, supporting museums as they lower operating costs and reduce their environmental footprint. Through this the museums function as examples to their local community, promoting climate awareness and responsibility to all who engage with art.

Learn more about the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative here.

Compiled by Avery Campbell, Advancement Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications


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