Brigham Young University president Rex E. Lee is a man who likes to party.

He likes it so much that he celebrated the groundbreaking of BYU's new Museum of Fine Arts twice during the past month.Which, he decided, warranted some explanation. At Tuesday's "commemoration" of the March 6 official groundbreaking, Lee told an audience of university officials, major donors and representatives from the LDS Church and state and local governments that the contractors wanted to get started on the project.

"They wanted to save three weeks construction time," Lee said. But the university still wanted to honor those who had donated to the project.

"The museum will be constructed entirely from donated funds," he said. "Because people have been so generous, we won't have to use LDS Church tithing funds."

BYU, which is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is subsidized through tithing funds.

James A. Mason, dean of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications, said he traveled extensively to find the best and brightest minds to create the museum.

"This museum is a plan that represents the best thinking of the foremost authorities in the nation," said Mason of the 100,000-square-foot structure that will house BYU's permanent art collection of more than 15,000 pieces.

The structure's architect is James Langenheim, who designed BYU's Harris Fine Arts Center as well as San Francisco's Transamerica Tower and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Stuart Silver, former chief designer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also provided direction in the refinement of the museum plan.

Lighting design for the museum is by LeMar Terry, lighting consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Experts from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Museums also assisted in reviewing the BYU museum plans and security system.

When completed, it will be the largest art museum between Denver and the Pacific Coast, Mason said.

The structure will also house climate-controlled storage areas, seminar and conference rooms, and interactive computer displays, as well as a restaurant and a bookstore featuring art objects, books, posters and catalogs.

Elaine L. Jack, general president of the Relief Society of the LDS Church, who represented the BYU Board of Trustees, said she believes the museum will be a place where people can come to be moved and touched.

"With the pace and perplexity of life," she said, "museums are a humanizing part of life."