The excitement around the reopening of South Carolina State University’s I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium was obvious.
After a two-year hiatus, the one-of-a-kind facility combining the arts and sciences was officially reopened and rededicated Thursday night.
“It’s something that I have looked for for a long time,” said Dr. Leo Twiggs, a noted artist who served as the museum’s first director.
“You know, when the museum closed, this was one of the top facilities in the state,” Twiggs said. “And it closed for a couple of years, and there was all this controversy about storage and all of that.
“And finally now it’s coming back again. And I am so pleased that Dr. Clark has seen how important this facility is to this community,” he added.
The Stanback was one of the things that brought together the college and the community early on, he said.
“And so, this facility is so significant in the history of this state and in the history of this city,” Twiggs said.
“I’m just thrilled that President (James) Clark has been able to provide enough momentum for us to return to our mission,” Interim Director Frank Martin said.
That mission is to offer “innovative programs to engage people with aesthetics and the arts, and also to help them understand how arts and science interact, are integrated and relate,” Martin said, noting that the “diverse facility” serves the people of the entire state.
“The museum is an extraordinary facility because it unites the planetarium and the cultural awareness of the arts,” he said.
Noting that the renovations extended even to the courtyard, Clark said, “People can come here and think of this as a place to enjoy the arts, enjoy the science, but also enjoy the space.”
The renovation and reopening of the museum was made possible through a generous donation by the Class of 1962.
“What we have here is a beautiful partnership between the Alumni Association -- people who care about the university -- and the university,” Interim Provost Dr. Learie Luke said.
“This is the first time a group of graduates of this university has gotten together to make a donation to the visual arts,” Twiggs said.
Addressing members of the Class of ’62, Clark said, “As you know, a couple of your fearless leaders saw what we were talking about potentially for this wonderful facility.”
After discussions, members of the class were committed to reopening the Stanback, he said.
“And they took up the challenge. They held my feet to the fire,” Clark said.
What the Class of ’62 did “represents a model of the type of things I hope we’ll be doing in the future,” he added.
In addition, a collective donation effort by the classes of 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1972 allowed the planetarium to be enhanced with a 360-degree, full-dome digital projection system. The state-of-the-art system will allow viewing of digital planetarium shows and other 360-degree content.
“We will also be able to bring kids from schools ... to not just see the stars,” Clark said.
The old system was good, but “it cannot do the new wave of things of flying through galaxies or ... taking a trip through the bloodstream of a human being,” he said.
Martin noted that schools have already been calling with interest in having classes visit the facility.
After a ribbon cutting, glass plaques honoring the classes for their contributions were unveiled.
Attendees entered the gallery, where they were able to view artwork, including five works donated by Class of 1962 member Joseph Sanders. The color lithographic prints by the late, nationally noted artist Selma Burke of North Carolina came from his private collection. As people gathered around, Sanders also presented Martin with a bust of Mary McLeod Bethune by Burke.
Later in the evening, Twiggs discussed his experiences as an independent artist and professor and offered commentary on his “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” series, created after the 2015 Charleston church shootings.
While still under renovation, the Stanback was briefly opened in March for Clark’s official installation as president. Showcasing the facility and its potential use, the event kicked off the effort to raise funds to support reopening the museum.