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Big reaction to Norman Rockwell exhibit means brighter future for the Taubman

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ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- If you haven't been to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art, your time is running out. The exhibit, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, opened in March and will be on display through Sunday.

This is one of the most popular exhibits to travel to the Taubman, drawing in thousands of new visitors. In the past two and a half months since the exhibit opened, there have been more than 11,000 visitors to the museum-- about 1,000 people a week.

Even on weekdays, the museum is seeing a big increase in visitors. Wednesday morning, a WSLS10 crew stopped by, and there were more than a dozen people lined up and waiting outside o the museum at 10 a.m. when it opened to see the exhibit.

For many people, getting to see the exhibit is a way of bringing back old memories, sharing them with friends and family. Others visit alone, using the free walking cell phone tour to explore on their own.

We're now down to the final few days of the Rockwell exhibit, which features original works from the artist who is well known for his Saturday Evening Post cover art. Checking out the exhibit is also the public's first chance to see inside of the museum's new gallery space.

"The space that it's in was unfinished space for many years after the building was originally finished," says Taubman Museum's Executive Director, Della Watkins. "In the last year, we've had the chance to build it out-- especially as a climatized high security site, so we can bring in blockbusters to the Taubman."

The new gallery has a lot of space, holding 393 pieces-- all part of the American Chronicles exhibit.

Many of the recent visitors have been to the Taubman before, but Watkins says there are also a lot of first time visitors-- getting their first look at Downtown Roanoke's art museum because of the popular display.

"People come in with a lot of thoughts about Norman Rockwell," she says. "They remember his work from Saturday Evening Post and they want to share it with a new person, a grandchild or friend. Or they just come in to see the whole building in general."

Roanoke is the final stop for the Rockwell Exhibit's national tour. Once the museum closes down on Sunday night, all of the pieces will be packed up and sent back to their home at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts.

This won't be the last major exhibit to visit the Taubman Museum. The huge reaction over the past few months shows that the museum is ready to handle other large blockbuster displays as well.

"Anytime a nationally touring exhibition, like American Chronicles, is able to come to our region, it really puts the museum on the map as a blockbuster venue. We will be bringing future exhibitions of this magnitude in the future."

The next exhibition slated for the new gallery is Legacies: Honoring Artistic Luminaries from Southwest Virginia. That display will open in late August. In February, another blockbuster exhibit will be unveiled in the same gallery, The American Impressionist Garden: Color and Light.

If you're looking to check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit, there's not a lot of time left-- it runs through Sunday, June 12. Admission for members is free. Nonmembers pay $12.50, with reduced rates for children, students and seniors. You can get more ticket information here.