Springfield Museum of Art begins major renovation work

Campaign raises $7 million for revamp of north wing and entrance area.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Springfield Museum of Art is launching a major renovation of the building’s original north wing, a project with the unique goal of reducing square footage yet making the new space more usable for its purposes.

Museum staff, current and former board members, community leaders and other guests gathered for a symbolic groundbreaking event under cloudy skies at the building’s portico Thursday evening to celebrate.

The renovation project will begin Monday with the projected reopening of that section by the end of 2023, according to Jessimi Jones, the museum’s executive director.

The museum raised $7 million for the project from the Art Invites capital campaign that began in 2016.

“This has been a long and tedious process that started before my time,” Jones said. “This project started with a vision to maintain what has been created, to update this facility to meet today’s needs and to sustain this cultural resource for generations to come.”

The building’s north wing, originally called the Springfield Art Center, was built in 1967 with additional portions added in 1973, housing spaces for educational classes, a small gallery and event space.

Less is more

It is 13,000 square feet currently and will be reduced by about 30 percent. The goal is twofold, Jones said: first, it will reduce operating costs and make the space more sustainable by less energy use and, secondly, much of the current square footage isn’t usable.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The renovation will include three new multi-functional flex studios for classes, workshops, meetings and community functions, all with outdoor access.

Serving students, teacher professional development and art therapy programs for those recovering from substance addiction are some of the potential uses for the reimagined space.

The community gallery will double in size and allow more opportunities to focus on the creations of local students and artists.

The event space is also being designed to be more accessible to the community, where people can rent it out and the museum can host more events. It will be located in the front of the building.

The entryway between the north wing and the rest of the building, renovated in 1991, will also double in size for better flow.

“We see this as one museum renovation,” said Jones.

The portico will remain, as it was significant to retain the historical edifice, Jones said. Staff also plans to make more use of the back portion of the museum’s grounds in the future, with this renovation making a seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor sections.

Marker Construction is handling the design and construction.

Museum’s rebound

The museum endured financial hardships in the early 2000s and turned around through a combination of donor and community support. It gained strong partnerships, including becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, and recently gained attention through high-profile exhibitions such as the “Black Lives as Subject Matter II” that earned the Ohio Museums Association awarded Best Exhibition Award in 2021.

Angus Randolph was museum’s director between 2007-2010 and has remained active as a volunteer and in other capacities. He is gratified to see the upswing and projects such as this. He likes the combination of new touches while retaining some of the feeling of how it was.

“I’ve always had faith in the board and staff and am glad the community would continue to support this museum,” he said.

The museum’s board of trustees also adopted a new mission statement recently: The Springfield Museum of Art expands creativity and vitality by connecting communities and art.

“Our reimagined facility will serve as a physical manifestation of this new mission and continue the legacy of cultivating inspiration and joy through art,” said Jones.

The museum’s galleries and exhibitions will remain open for normal business during the renovation project. For updates on the project or more information on the Springfield Museum of Art, go to www.springfieldart.net/.

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