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Renovated and expanded Tacoma Art Museum to open to the public on November 16, 2014
Rendering of the new Tacoma Art Museum. Courtesy of Olson Kundig Architects, Seattle, WA.

TACOMA, WA.- Tacoma Art Museum is counting down the days until its new wing and renovations open to the public on Sunday, November 16, 2014. The project’s centerpiece is the new Haub Family Galleries, showcasing the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art. The collection places the museum among a select few in the United States, and the only museum in the Pacific Northwestern region, with a Western American art collection of this caliber. Tacoma Art Museum will develop an entirely new dimension of cultural and educational opportunities related to the collection, offering programs for Tacoma, the state of Washington, and the Pacific Northwest, as well as contributing nationally and internationally to scholarship in the Western American art genre.

The building expansion doubles the museum’s gallery space. Renovations will support larger community activities, improve the visitor experience, and increase the museum’s connection with downtown Tacoma. Award-winning firm Olson Kundig Architects of Seattle designed the expansion and renovation. This will be Tom Kundig’s first completed museum design project. The project team includes the landscape architecture firm Murase Associates, construction company Sellen Construction, and Bonewitz Project Leadership as project management. Approximately 61% of the total construction budget is going to local Tacoma area companies.

To celebrate the opening, Tacoma Art Museum will host special events leading up to the public opening day on Sunday, November 16, including a Gala on Friday, November 14 and a Members-Only Day and Evening celebration on Saturday, November 15.

Tacoma is a fitting site for the Haub’s exceptional collection of Western American art, as the city was pivotal in the development of the west. In 1864, President Lincoln signed legislation that chartered the Northern Pacific Railroad to connect the mid-west to the West Coast; the rail line terminated in Tacoma, which became a jumping off point in western exploration. The region has a rich Native American heritage, and the museum is situated on former Puyallup tribal land.

“We are immensely grateful to Erivan and Helga Haub and family for their remarkable vision and amazing generosity to Tacoma. They built their collection with such care, joy and purpose—even making additional purchases of art to strengthen the collection’s public appeal and scholarly scope during discussions with the museum about their gift,” said Stephanie A. Stebich, Director of Tacoma Art Museum. “With great foresight, they took care to provide for the collection by donating substantial endowment funds and providing support for glorious new gallery spaces. These are extraordinary donors and absolutely delightful people who have made the single largest gift in the history of Tacoma Art Museum. The community has welcomed this gift and contributed generously to the building project, which is fully funded.”

Construction will have taken approximately one year from start to finish for the museum’s $15.5 million, 16,000 square foot expansion, and adds 32% new space to the museum’s 50,000 square foot Antoine-Predock designed facility, which opened in 2003. Tom Kundig designed the Haub Family Galleries as an elegant horizontal structure with a nod to Native American long houses and railroad boxcars. Kundig commented on the design, “The design brief for this project was to open up the museum to the community; we looked for as many opportunities as possible to create visual and physical connections between the inside and the outside. The project touches so many spheres—art, civic design, our western heritage—it is thrilling to be involved in the creation of something so meaningful for so many people.”

This state-of-the-art project includes four gracious new galleries, a sculpture hallway and an enlarged light-filled lobby. A hands-on art-making area for all ages will be available off the lobby free of charge. New visitor amenities include an orientation space, and redesigned entrances on Pacific Avenue and on the parking level with a new glass enclosed vestibule. Beautiful new landscaping and major outdoor sculptural works will be added. Improvements are also planned for the museum’s store and café.

The museum’s main entrance and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Plaza will be transformed with a soaring canopy that ties together the existing building and the new Haub Family Galleries. The canopy provides a covered outdoor gathering space and establishes a strong visual presence for the museum along Pacific Avenue, Tacoma’s main thoroughfare. Outdoor art installations will activate the environment around the museum, including three newly commissioned sculptures by Northwest artists Scott Fife, Julie Speidel, and Marie Watt. Fife’s sculpture will delight visitors with playful portrayals of a bear cub and an eaglet exploring the urban environment, scheduled for unveiling in the spring of 2015. Speidel’s installation evokes the region’s ancient geological history, elegantly recreating glacial erratics (large boulders) left behind by receding glaciers with integrated seating for the outdoor waiting area. Watt, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, has proposed a large scale bronze sculpture based on the humble yet significant role blankets play in people’s lives, in the settling of the West, and in Native American communities. Speidel and Watt’s sculptures will be unveiled in the fall.

The museum worked with Sellen Sustainability to incorporate sustainable practices into the design and construction, including: recycling of site debris, energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and resource conservation through use of materials with recycled content. The façade of the new building will be clad in a deep bronze colored Richlite, a dense material made with recycled paper and resin, created by the Tacoma-based Richlite Company. Innovative sliding screens along the building’s exterior recall railroad boxcars and allow the museum to adjust the amount of sun and heat coming into the new wing.

Erivan and Helga Haub donated 295 Western American works of art from their private collection to the Tacoma Art Museum, along with endowment funds for the future care and educational opportunities related to the collection, as well as substantial support of the new Haub Family Galleries. The Haubs, inspired by their love of art and nature, began collecting Western American art in the early 1980s and developed one of the most important collections in private hands. Their passion for the West helped shape their artistic choices, which chronicle the land, people, wildlife, and history of the great American West. The collection spans 200 years, from famed early artists/explorers to notable present day masters. November’s opening celebrations mark the first nearly comprehensive public exhibition of this collection.

Originally from Germany, the Haubs have had close personal and business ties to the Pacific Northwest since the 1950s and specifically Tacoma, where their three sons were born. They chose Tacoma Art Museum to receive their collection because of their desire for a location that is accessible to many visitors and their compelling ties with the city. “We are very excited that the Tacoma Art Museum is the new home to our family’s collection,” said Christian Haub. “My brothers and I were born in Tacoma and we have many fond memories of our childhood summers there. I come to Tacoma regularly and continue to enjoy all that the area has to offer. My wife Liliane will join the museum’s Board of Trustees, and our entire family is thrilled to add a landmark contribution to Tacoma's cultural heritage and build an enduring relationship with the museum."

The Haub Family Collection includes prominent 19th century artists who shaped the views of Native Americans, mountain men, cowboys, and pristine American landscapes, such as George Catlin, John Mix Stanley, Thomas Moran, Alexander Phimister Proctor, and Frederic Remington. There are also 20th century artists who brought modern art movements west and who explored western history and American identity, such as Georgia O’Keefe, Taos Society members E. Martin Hennings and Joseph Henry Sharp, Tom Lovell, and John Clymer. Works by many artists who are active and working today are also a unique aspect of this collection. Contemporary Native American artists such as John Nieto and Kevin Red Star take a fresh approach and portray American culture in a modern light, and pop artist Bill Schenck uses humor and satire to challenge long-held assumptions about the American West.

Tacoma Art Museum welcomes the Haub Family Collection to their existing collection of approximately 4,400 works with a particular focus on Northwest artists. The museum features the premier collection of works by Tacoma-native Dale Chihuly on permanent display. Gifts of artwork by major European and American artists of the 18th through 20th centuries, and a notable collection of Japanese woodblock prints donated by the leading timber families of the region, round out the museum’s holdings. Together, these collections will offer a comprehensive understanding of the Northwest region as part of an integral history of American art and the West and will illuminate how that broad history has shaped regional artistic responses.

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