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Penn State Breaks Ground On New Palmer Museum Of Art

Penn State has officially broken ground on its new Palmer Museum of Art, according to the university.

The new Palmer Museum of Art will directly neighbor the Arboretum’s botanic gardens. Construction will notably eliminate the Arboretum’s free parking lot.

Penn State expects to open the new free-admission museum by the fall of 2023. Once its doors are open, it’ll be the largest art museum collection between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The new 71,000-square-foot facility will substantially boost Penn State’s ability to showcase the Palmer’s ever-growing collection. The museum would let it display between 7 and 8% of the works in the Palmer collection. The existing Curtain Road museum allows for only 3 to 4% to be displayed.

Although the collection has grown by 185% from its original set, the Curtain Road museum’s display spaces have not changed.

“Advancing the arts and the humanities is a strategic priority for the University, and through this project, it is our desire to elevate Penn State and central Pennsylvania as a hub for the arts,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “This new state-of-the-art facility situated alongside our world-class arboretum will go a long way toward turning that vision into a reality.

Back in May, some trustees said the current museum’s building systems have “exceeded their useful life” due to age. They cited struggling heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems as particularly troublesome since optimal conditions are required to keep works intact. The museum said it’s experienced “significant damage” due to water penetration issues.

Additionally, a more centralized location near the Arboretum is expected to help the new museum accommodate more guests. Before approving plans, trustees argued that the current museum’s location in the heart of campus makes it less accessible to guests, particularly schools, due to a lack of nearby parking.

“As a leading arts destination and cultural gateway to the University, the Palmer looks forward to sharing more of its exceptional works and to fostering greatly enhanced opportunities to experience art, nature, connection and inspiration through this visionary new building,” said museum director Erin M. Coe.

To date, more than $20 million has been raised toward the museum’s $85 million budget. About $62 million of the project’s cost will be funded by borrowing, according to the Board of Trustees’ approved plans.

The new museum will work with the Arboretum to complement the “greater landscape” through interlocking pavilions and “dynamic learning and creative spaces.” It’ll be the only Big Ten museum fully integrated with a full-scale arboretum.

The current Palmer Museum of Art, which celebrates its 50th year in 2022, will remain open until Penn State’s new location is completed. Although its museum will close, the building itself will still be used for unannounced university purposes.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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