Rev. Peter J. Gomes says a prayer during the dedication ceremony. (David L. Ryan / Globe Staff)
Five minutes after giving stirring speeches this morning at the dedication ceremony for the Museum of Fine Arts's new Art of the Americas Wing, both Senator Scott Brown and his "good friend" Congressman Michael Capuano drove off in private cars. Brown's mode of transport was not a truck: it was a sporty red Pontiac. Capuano was in a shiny white SUV.
They're busy men. But their speeches in praise of the new wing seemed sincere, and so did Mayor Thomas Menino's.
The wing, designed by Norman Foster, is finally opened, and although there is still work being done on the other side of the museum, everything now feels locked in place. The museum is now, as the senator said, "beautifully balanced."
The new wing will open to the general public Nov. 20.
It was also beautifully lighted. The sun poured in through the shaded glass ceiling of the massive new courtyard, where members of the press, as well as museum trustees and museum staff, were gathered for the dedication ceremony.
More than $500 million was raised for the new building project (including funds for the museum's endowment). "25,000 people, rich and poor, contributed to that campaign," said MFA director, Malcolm Rogers. "How do you think I feel about that fact alone?" he asked.
Prior to festivities, Rogers had given Senator Brown a five-minute private tour of several of the galleries. He saw the Sargents and Copleys, and was particularly impressed, Rogers told me afterward, by the Salon style hang on level 3, which displays landscapes by 19th century painters.
Capuano spoke about passing by the MFA as a younger man and feeling shut out. "It had a sign in front of it that said, 'You are not welcome here.'"
"Malcolm Rogers and the museum's board of trustees have taken down that sign. They have made it clear that you are welcome here."
Other people who spoke included Rogers himself, and the new wing's architect, Sir Norman Foster.
The mood was celebratory in the shining new courtyard. People were nodding when Brown, who described himself as coming "from a family of artists," said, "It feels good."
Sunday, the museum opens for MFA members — some 60,000 households — and then Nov. 20, it opens to the general public.