With upgraded gallery lighting, reorganized collections and restored touches in an already elegant building, it'll be like experiencing the artwork for the first time.

With upgraded gallery lighting, reorganized collections and restored touches in an already elegant building, it'll be like experiencing the artwork for the first time.

That's the hope of Columbus Museum of Art staff, who will unveil the renovated Elizabeth M. and Richard M. Ross building during an event called New CMA on New Year's Day.

The free ribbon-cutting celebration starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and will include hands-on crafts, live entertainment and refreshments. The public will get to wander through the spiffy new interior of the Italian Renaissance revival structure, which was built in 1931 and has been under construction since October 2009.

So what's changed during the past 15 months?

In a way, everything.

To bring the museum's main display areas up to contemporary standards, every gallery was equipped with better lighting, new climate-control systems and fresh coats of paint.

"You don't even think about it, but artwork really takes on another life when it's well-lit," said Nancy Colvin, the museum's marketing and public relations manager.

Nearly everything around the art was reconditioned and brought new life. Floors were refinished and polished. Hallway ceilings were painted with colorful vintage motifs. An overhauled Derby Court was fitted with beautiful new vaulted skylights.

Even so, the changes to the art are by far the most striking.

Instead of keeping galleries segregated by style or period, each was reorganized around broader themes such as "Love and War" or "New Materials." Standing together for the first time, pieces from different eras, artists and places speak a new language.

Colvin said that rebuilding the show spaces should help visitors see the CMA collection in a completely different way.

"It gives us a chance to tell more stories about our collection," she explained. "It creates an entirely different story about art and art history - and starts a conversation we didn't have before."