Philadelphia News & Search
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is planning to announce this morning a $525 million fund-raising campaign, believed to be the largest ever mounted by a Philadelphia cultural institution, by far.
The campaign, which has already raised $326 million, according to museum officials, is aimed at revamping the physical museum, enhancing programming, and adding to the museum’s endowment, which now stands at about $448 million, well below comparable institutions across the country.
The campaign is seeking $150 million for the endowment, $233 million for capital projects, and $142 million for “strategic initiatives,” which includes everything from educational programs, audience-enhancement efforts, digital projects, community programs, and similar efforts.
The announcement of the campaign, officially dubbed “It Starts Here,” is slated to come at this morning’s official ground-breaking ceremony for the museum’s $196 million “core project,” which will radically rework the interior of the 1928 neo-Classical building by removing the auditorium (a later addition) and adding about 23,000 square feet of new gallery space and a total of about 67,000 square feet of new public space. The core project costs are included in the fund-raising goals.
The museum said major contributors to the fund-raising campaign include Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, the late Robert L. McNeil Jr., and Constance and Sankey Williams. Additional gifts have come from the late Daniel W. Dietrich II, David Haas, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Philadelphia.
The museum said it was confident it would achieve its fund-raising goal, although the Philadelphia philanthropic landscape has sometimes proved difficult in recent decades.
The Barnes Foundation successfully raised $200 million for its Benjamin Franklin Parkway gallery construction and endowment. Next month, the Museum of the American Revolution opens after successfully raising $150 million for its building (and endowment) at Third and Chestnut Streets.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts eventually raised its announced $275 million, although it took many years to do so.
Architect Frank Gehry, 88, whose firm designed the museum plan in 2006, is scheduled to be on hand for today’s ceremony.
Gehry has spoken in the past of his desire to “unclog the arteries” of the museum by removing the auditorium and allowing a free flow of visitors from front to back.
When he first signed on, Gehry said the building told its own story; it simply needed to be uncovered and translated.
“I walked through the building and I saw that all you had to do was follow the yellow brick road, so to speak,” Gehry said in a statement. “It was all there, and it showed you what you could do.”
Timothy Rub, museum director, characterized Gehry’s plan as “simple, yet brilliant.” The design will improve the experience of museum-goers. It will allow more of the city into the museum interior, for example, by unblocking existing windows. The design will also allow for more of the collection to be on display.
“This project is complex and touches many parts of the museum, but we are committed to remaining open to the public throughout,” Rub said.
Mayor Kenney, also expected to be on hand, announced that his administration has committed $32.5 million over the next six years to support the core project.
“This project is not just vital to the institution, but also Philadelphia,” Kenney said in a statement. “I frequently speak about the impact public-private partnerships have on Philadelphia and its residents. This museum’s formation is a shining example of that. And that continues today.”
The city owns the Art Museum building.
The core project is the most extensive reworking of the museum’s interior in its 90-year history. It is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Construction actually began in the fall, but museum officials said they wanted to hold off a ground-breaking ceremony not because of the ground, but because they wanted to have the fund-raising goal in place.
Today’s announcement certainly establishes that eye-popping number.
One of the unique aspects of the plan is to refurbish and reopen a 640-foot long-closed vaulted walkway that runs beneath the museum’s east terrace from the Kelly Drive side facing the Perelman Building to the Schuylkill side of the building.
The walkway will serve as entrance to the main building through a new public space dubbed the “Forum.” The walkway will also serve as entrance to new galleries that will eventually be carved from the stone beneath the eastern terrace.
The terrace galleries and a new auditorium are not part of the current phase of construction.
Gail Harrity, museum president and COO, said the renovations and rebuilding are “about restoring, preserving, and at the same time reimagining the building for Philadelphia’s future.”
The Inquirer wrote extensively about the start of the core project construction in October. That story can be found here.
Philadelphia News & Search