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March 10, 2019

Smart Museum Cafe to Close Temporarily for Renovations

Miriam's Cafe is located in the Smart Museum of Art.

Miriam's Cafe is located in the Smart Museum of Art.

Pete Grieve / The Chicago Maroon

Miriam’s Café at the Smart Museum will temporarily close on March 15 after 19 years of operation, due to renovation plans.

According to Michael Christiano, the museum’s deputy director, the original plan was to continue operating Miriam’s Café until renovation starts, likely in summer 2021.

However, a recent health inspection mandated that the café must have running water in order to remain operational. According to Christiano, running a water line from the kitchen to the café is too intensive a project to complete before renovations begin.

“We would have to break up the entire lobby floor,” Christiano explained, “It feels inhibitive to do that work when we already have renovation plans in the near future. Therefore, the Smart has come to the difficult decision to close Miriam’s Café at the end of the quarter.”

The planned renovation will involve substantial facility upgrades to the lobby and Miriam’s Café. The last major renovation in the Smart Museum took place in 1999.

“We want to renovate the lobby so that the entire experience of the museum when you enter feels more hospitable, engaging, and accessible,” Christiano said.

Part of the renovation plan is also to remake Miriam’s Café by providing more comfortable seating, a better-functioning kitchen, and more food options. The Smart hopes that these changes will create a friendlier space and allow patrons to linger longer at the museum.

Kate Kelly, guest services and operations manager, has spoken to the café staff and offered them paid positions at the Smart Museum.

“It felt really important for us to create an opportunity for the baristas to find employment within our system, because they are an important part of our community,” Christiano said.

The Smart staff is thinking about plans to repurpose the café space. Christiano told The Maroon that the Smart wants to use the area to display more art or for other functionality.

“It is important for us to charge the space [of Miriam’s Café] in a new way so we could keep the energy of the space,” Christiano said.

The Smart plans to reopen Miriam’s Café after the renovations in summer 2020.

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