The design process is in full swing at A&E Architects in Missoula for the new $6 million Montana Heritage Pavilion at the University of Montana.

A team of architects is drafting the design and should have a rendering complete in January, said Jim McDonald, a principal at the firm.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the new one going soon,” said McDonald, an audience member at Missoula City Club on Monday, when H. Rafael Chacon, Montana Museum of Art and Culture director, spoke about the art ecosystem renaissance taking place in Missoula and Montana. 

Meanwhile, Chacon said a $5 million donation by Terry and Patt Payne allows organizers “to move forward” on the new Montana Museum of Art and Culture, to be christened the Montana Heritage Pavilion.

For the first time, the art museum and its extended collection will be housed in one building.

“Things are moving very quickly, at a good pace, in kind of an exciting way,” Chacon added. “Our timetable is dictated by the funding, and the entire funding is not in place. Timing is really related to how we can finish out the fundraising efforts; we’re in the throes of that, but it’s all looking very positive right now.”

The University of Montana Foundation will solicit the remaining $1 million in private donations for the project.

The building will serve as a gateway to campus, as it will be built at the intersection of University and Arthur avenues. 

McDonald, who has participated in the museum project since its inception in 2006, said other locations for the building were considered over the years. 

Among the spaces eliminated from consideration were sites near the Adams Center, the Madison Street-Campus Drive intersection and Schreiber Gym.  

The new building will hold 11,000 pieces of art and historical items, ranging from ancient to contemporary. It also will serve as a premiere museum exhibiting much more than the 1% of the collection UM has been able to display in recent years due to a lack of space.

Architects plan to produce a final rendering of the new building in January.

Set to open in 2023, the MMAC will be one of three state museums. When it opens as a permanent home, the MMAC will join the Montana Historical Society in Helena and Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. 

Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and