NEW BRITAIN, CONN.- The New Britain Museum of American Art
s second expansion in less than ten years opens to the public on Saturday, October 17, 2015.
The 17,346 sq. ft. Art & Education addition to the Chase Family Building provides seven more galleries and two smaller exhibit areas, and three spacious multi-sized art studios replacing one. The $22 million project also includes acquisition of contiguous property, construction of more parking, and endowment growth.
Organizational partners for the project were Ann Beha Architects, Boston, MA, and New Britains own Downes Construction Company, designer and builders of the 2006 expansion that realized the Chase Family Building and renovation of the Landers House. That award-winning project won the Boston Society of Architects Award for Design and the American Institute of Architects: New England Merit Award for Design Excellence. Trustee and architect David Jepson chaired the Building Committee.
Designed as an additional pavilion, extending from the 43,000 sq. ft. Chase Family Building, the new building continues the design vocabulary of the original 2006 expansion with large areas of glass, views to Walnut Hill Park, and rare Mankato limestone walls, complementing the stonework of the original Landers House and Chase Family Building. The clerestory windows bring filtered daylight into the upper galleries, and create an exterior expression of a floating roof over illuminated bands of glass. Interior woods include American red oak and cherry, with floors custom stained for the Museum by artist Tom Schultz.
Most recently the NBMAA devoted 8,539 sq. ft. of its 53,000 sq. ft. to the permanent collection. Now, a total of 16,135 (an 89% increase) will be dedicated to its holdings which have grown from 5,000 works 16 years ago to 11,500paintings ,sculptures, works on paper, photographs, videos, and installations. With the new galleries and by repurposing existing galleries 200 more works will be put on view for a total of 450 adding variety, deeper representation of periods of art (Academic, The Eight & Social Realism, and Modernism); introducing new collections and themes (Native American art, Shaker art, coastal paintings, photography and furniture); extending and enhancing the chronological display of the permanent collection and positioning works of art for greater aesthetic and interpretive advantage.
The signature Benton murals have been moved to the first floor of the new building to be in better alignment with the chronological flow of the permanent collection. The memorial to 9/11, The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, 2001 by Graydon Parrish, now resides in its own gallery devoted to Post Contemporary art. The spectacular chandelier, Blue and Beyond Blue by Dale Chihuly was carefully relocated to the new staircase in the new building. The expansion also allowed for 3,000 more square feet to be devoted to contemporary American art with more examples of art by younger artists, more minority and female artists. The New Media alcove was also doubled.
Special Installations include Nick Napolitanos trompe loeil painting (coming in mid-to-late November) for the ladies and mens restrooms in the new building. They create an optical illusion that place the viewer in the environment of nearby Walnut Hill Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Also expanded was the Museums collection of artist-designed benches with seven new commissionsart you can sit on. Among the artists are Katja Loher, Cameron Van Dyke, Thomas Sippel, Stefan Rurak, and John Eric Byers.
The addition of gallery space and repurposing of the galleries in the Chase Family Building also allowed the creation of a permanent Shaker Gallery, which was opened in June 2015. One of only three permanent Shaker galleries in art museums in the country, next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The new wing allows many masterworks never seen before to be shown in an elegant cheerful environment and the Education Center will inspire artists of all ages for generations to follow says Douglas Hyland, director of the NBMAA. It is the culmination of a decade of planning.
Inaugural exhibitions include Directors Favorites: 1999-2015 in the 3,000 sq. ft. Stitzer Family Gallery through January 3, 2016; Stone Roberts: Street Scenes, Still Lifes, and Figures, in the Davis Gallery through January 17, 2015, NEW/NOW: Kate ODonovan Cook opening November 7, 2015 through February 14, 2016 in the Cheney Gallery.
Another major element of the expansion is the creation of three new art studios in graduated sizes. The art studio space nearly triples from 915 sq. ft. to 2,660 sq. ft. and importantly give the Museum three separate spaces that can be used simultaneously with up to 120 students, accommodating multiple groups at one time, as compared to the one-room space in the lower level of Landers House. The Art Studio also accommodates age-appropriate studio classes taught by Museum staff and 12-15 artists in residence that occur weekly, afterschool, on weekends, and during school vacations.
The facility features Universal Design with ramps, automatic doors, elevators and wheelchairs available.
Major funders for the project included the State of Connecticut through a $4 million Urban Act Grant, million dollar gifts from Stanley Black & Decker and two Connecticut families, major grants from American Savings Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, and gifts from 290 others.