George Eastman Museum breaks ground on Thomas Tischer Visitor Center and ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion
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George Eastman Museum breaks ground on Thomas Tischer Visitor Center and ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion
Support from Thomas Tischer, ESL Federal Credit Union, and New York State Council on the Arts made project possible.

ROCHESTER, NY.- The George Eastman Museum broke ground today on the Thomas Tischer Visitor Center, including construction of the ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion, which will serve as the museum’s new main entrance, located next to the Dryden Theatre. Through the new entrance, visitors will be served by a new admissions desk, gathering places, a renovated education and meeting hall, a more mission-focused shop, and a relocated café that includes seating in the historic Palm House. The project is expected to be completed by July 2020.

Funding from a combination of individual philanthropy, local corporate support, and grants from the State of New York has enabled this transformative project. Thomas Tischer, a retired research chemist at Eastman Kodak Company and longtime museum patron, initiated the project and has advanced it by donating more than $1.5 million. The museum received a $1 million grant award from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. Last summer, ESL Federal Credit Union acquired the naming rights to the entrance pavilion for $1 million, which enabled the overall project to proceed.

“For years, I have envisioned how much more welcoming it would be if the Eastman Museum’s main entrance was located near its parking,” said Thomas Tischer, lead donor to the project. “Thankful for the good fortune to be able to make a substantial contribution, I look forward to seeing a more convenient and accessible main entrance and a new visitor center realized during my lifetime.”

The ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion will be a glass-and-steel structure in front of the west facade of the one-story building—originally George Eastman’s garage—where the museum’s café and shop were located. The structure is designed to provide an attractive new entrance, while retaining the historic facade of the garage, which will be visible from within and outside the pavilion.

“We are honored to support this transformational project for one of Greater Rochester’s most iconic institutions,” said Faheem Masood, President and CEO, ESL Federal Credit Union. “As we enter ESL’s 100th year of serving the community, our participation in this integral upgrade to our founder’s former home is humbling and deeply meaningful. We thank the George Eastman Museum for the opportunity to be a part of this project that will provide an enhanced experience for visitors looking to take in an important component of Greater Rochester’s arts and culture community.”

“This project will create a world-class visitor experience for the George Eastman Museum’s globally recognized collection, ushering in a new era for the museum, the region, and the state,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director, New York State Council on the Arts.

Other major donors to the Visitor Center Project include Kevin and Rachel Glazer; Dr. Dawn F. Lipson; Nocon & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.; and the Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation. The Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation has awarded a grant for educational elements of the new visitor center.

“We are deeply grateful to the individuals and institutions whose financial support has made our Visitor Center Project possible,” said Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director, George Eastman Museum. “This project will truly transform the experience of more than 130,000 visitors each year to the Eastman Museum.”

The visitor center was designed by Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo, and the general contractor is The Pike Company.

The galleries and mansion will be open for most of the duration of the construction, but several public spaces will be subject to closures. The entire George Eastman Museum will be closed to the public through January 30, 2020, but will reopen that evening for the premiere of the Bea Nettles and Alejandro Cartagena exhibitions. The historic mansion will be closed through February 13, 2020, and will reopen on February 14 with the start of the annual Dutch Connection floral show. While the mansion is closed, museum admission will be reduced to $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (65+), $3 for ages 5–17 and students (with ID). (Admission will remain free for museum members, children 4 and under, SNAP/EBT cardholders and their families, and active-duty military personnel and their families.) The Dryden Theatre will be closed through June 3, 2020, and will reopen for the 6th Nitrate Picture Show on June 4.

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