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Project to Enhance Accessibility, Build Community and Showcase Art Outdoors

Platform Sculpture Garden
Rendering of Nasher Museum Sculpture Garden project, courtesy of Unknown Studio Landscape Architecture.

Duke University has received $5 million from Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger to expand and redesign the Nasher Museum of Art’s outdoor arts space.

The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Sculpture Garden will create 270 degrees of walkable landscape for visitors, with accessible pathways and green spaces for community gatherings and events. The project also celebrates native plants and showcases art outdoors.

Groundbreaking began in late February 2024 and is expected to last 18 months.

IMAGES: Renderings of Nasher Museum Sculpture Garden project, courtesy of Unknown Studio Landscape Architecture.

We are very grateful to Nancy and David for making possible this welcoming outdoor space where people will experience nature while celebrating art. This thoughtfully designed garden will further distinguish the Nasher Museum as both a leading university art museum and a popular destination for members of the Duke community and campus visitors.

Duke University President Vincent E. Price
Birdseye West Garden
Rendering of Nasher Museum Sculpture Garden project, courtesy of Unknown Studio Landscape Architecture.

In 2025, the completed Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Sculpture Garden will enhance the natural woods around the museum, a hilly property flanked by Campus Drive, Alexander Avenue, Duke University Road and Anderson Street.

New design elements include wooden walking steps, pathways accessible to wheelchairs, strollers and people with mobility challenges, and a 21-foot-long human-scaled gallery bench of stone to provide space for gathering, contemplation and study. Bluestone, a traditional paving material used throughout Duke’s campus, connects spaces close to the building.

Trevor Schoonmaker by Cornell Watson

We are deeply grateful to Nancy and David for their generosity and commitment in spearheading this transformative project! I also applaud former Director Sarah Schroth for her initial vision for the sculpture garden many years ago. We’re thrilled that our community will soon have almost nine acres around the museum to explore and experience art in nature. I’m very proud to be a part of a museum and a university that are so visibly prioritizing visitor accessibility, community and the environment with this project.

Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum (Trevor Schoonmaker with Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey, created in 2017. Photo by Cornell Watson)

The design was led by Duke alumna Claire Agre, co-founder of landscape architecture firm Unknown Studio in Baltimore. Agre, who graduated from Duke in 2002, said Duke’s campus inspired her to become a landscape architect and working on the new sculpture garden has been meaningful.

LEFT: Claire Agre, Partner, Unknown Studio (second from left) walks the perimeter of the Nasher Museum with Nasher Museum Director Trevor Schoonmaker (right) and others. Photo courtesy of Unknown Studio.

Claire Agre, Partner, Unknown Studio

I never fathomed that I’d have the privilege to return to campus, taking part in a project that contributes beauty, sustainability, accessibility and spaces for nature, community and monumental works of art.

Claire Agre, Partner, Unknown Studio

Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger: A Vision

David J. Haemisegger with Nancy Nasher
Duke University has received $5 million from Nancy A. Nasher (right) and David J. Haemisegger (left) to expand and redesign the Nasher Museum of Art’s outdoor arts space.

Nancy A. Nasher is chair of the Nasher Museum’s Board of Advisors. Nancy, her husband, David J. Haemisegger, and her father, Raymond D. Nasher, were instrumental in the creation and development of the Nasher Museum, which opened in 2005 as a major center for the arts on Duke’s campus.

Nancy is a 1979 graduate of Duke Law School and an emerita member of Duke’s Board of Trustees. She is a lifetime member of the Duke Law School Board of Visitors. David serves as a member of the Nasher Museum’s Board of Advisors, a position he has held since its inception. Nancy and David are owners of NorthPark Center in Dallas.  They also serve together on the boards of the Nasher Foundation and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.

“David and I have long envisioned expanding the Nasher Museum to include a substantial outdoor art space and garden,” said Nancy A. Nasher. “This significant project marks a new chapter for the museum, amplifying its impact worldwide and offering an important platform for diverse experiences and perspectives.”

Nasher Museum Director Trevor Schoonmaker poses with MamaRay, a bronze sculpture by Wangechi Mutu, with (from left) Joan Kahn, Stefanie and Douglas Kahn (P’11, P’13). Photo by J Caldwell.

In addition to the carefully planned footprint and landscaping, the Nasher Museum will install MamaRay, a 15-foot bronze sculpture by contemporary artist Wangechi Mutu, at the main entrance. The work was commissioned by the Nasher Museum and purchased with a gift from Duke grandparents Joan and the late Mike Kahn in honor of their son and daughter-in-law Douglas and Stefanie Kahn.

IMAGE: Nasher Museum Director Trevor Schoonmaker poses with MamaRay, a bronze sculpture by Wangechi Mutu, with (from left) Joan Kahn, Stefanie and Douglas Kahn (P’11, P’13). Photo by J Caldwell.

Portrait of Duke Student Ruth Player in the exhibition Act as if you are a curator: an AI-generated exhibition
Portrait of Duke Student Ruth Player in the exhibition Act as if you are a curator: an AI-generated exhibition. Player is a senior at Duke with double majors in art history and civil engineering. She is an intern and chair of the Museum Undergraduate Student Executive (MUSE) board at the Nasher. Photo by J Caldwell.

More art installations will follow as artists visit, walk the grounds and create works of sculpture to fit specific sites. That’s something Duke graduating senior Ruth Player says she is looking forward to.

“Being able to experience art both inside and outdoors is a welcoming experience for everyone,” Player said, “It’s nice that Duke is investing in a space as valuable as the Nasher Museum so that students after me can continue to enjoy it the way I have.”

Rendering of Nasher Museum Sculpture Garden project with view of garden platform, courtesy of Unknown Studio Landscape Architecture.
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