Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), will be recognized with the 2021 Architecture Medal for Virginia Service. The Architecture Medal for Virginia Service is AIA Virginia’s most prestigious public award, honoring an individual or organization that has made an unusually significant contribution to Virginia’s built environment or to the public’s understanding and awareness of the built environment.
Under Nyerges’ leadership, a 2010 expansion doubled the space for major traveling exhibitions and increased total space for VMFA’s permanent collections and exhibitions to 134,000 square feet, while respecting and enhancing the museum’s 13-acre campus. Plans for another expansion are currently under way. But Nyerges has contributed beyond these aspects of the architecture itself. He successfully advocated for VMFA to be the only U.S. museum open 365 days a year with free general admission. His vision for the museum to become a more vibrant, inclusive cultural leader is evident in the institution’s previous and current strategic plans, which call for a VMFA that inspires all Virginians — through the arts and creativity — to reflect and connect to each other, their communities, and the wider world.
In 2019, Nyerges led a watershed event for the museum, the city of Richmond, and the Commonwealth of Virginia with the permanent installation of Kehinde Wiley’s groundbreaking sculpture, Rumors of War. This monumental sculpture, installed at the main entrance of the museum, offers a counter-narrative to American history. The museum received national recognition for this acquisition. Previous exhibitions from France and China expanded VMFA’s international reputation and brought masterworks for Virginians to experience at home. Collections and curatorial staff have grown during his tenure, adding more value for citizens of the Commonwealth.
Central to Nyerges’ leadership has been his commitment to embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility as foundational values in the museum’s strategic plan. It’s no surprise that Governor Northam has tapped VMFA to lead an initiative to reimagine Richmond’s Monument Avenue following the removal of Confederate monuments. Nyerges’ vision for this project is a community-driven effort that will transform Monument Avenue into more inclusive public spaces featuring dynamic works of art to better reflect the city and state, and attract visitors, new residents, and businesses.
For his proven commitment to the arts, his work to ensure greater accessibility to the arts for all Virginians, and his vision for the arts to support social change, Alex Nyerges will be recognized with the Architecture Medal for Virginia Service at the Visions for Architecture gala on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and online.