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Penn State Symbolically Breaks Ground On New Palmer Museum Of Art

Penn State hosted a ceremony Friday afternoon at the Arboretum to symbolically break ground on the university’s new Palmer Museum of Art.

The 71,000-square-foot building design technically broke ground in July and should open by fall 2023. The museum has a permanent collection of more than 10,000 works of art, including one of the finest collections of American art.

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.

Currently, the Palmer Museum of Art is located on Curtain Road. However, due to lack of accessibility and visibility, the museum is being redesigned and integrated with the Arboretum. The museum will continue to serve as an educational space with a diverse set of learning opportunities, in a more appropriate and thoughtful environment.

President Eric Barron, College of Arts and Architecture Dean B. Stephen Carpenter II, and Palmer Museum of Art Director Erin Coe spoke at the event. Allied Works architect Chelsea Grassinger and trustee Robert Fenza spoke, too.

Rich Bundy, Penn State’s vice president for development and alumni relations, opened the event and introduced the guest speakers, the Palmer family. He explained how the power of philanthropy fuels greatness.

Later, Coe took the stage to discuss how significant a new Palmer Museum of Art will be for Penn State.

“The museum has significantly outgrown its facility, and the Palmer’s programmatic and outreach footprint has grown right alongside those expanding [art] collections”, Coe said. “That is why we celebrate today the groundbreaking of this dynamic and vibrant new building.”

More than 50 donors helped fund this project. Bundy recognized Keiko Miwa Ross, the 2020 Penn State Philanthropist of the Year, for her generous donation of $7.5 million to the development of the new Palmer Museum of Art. Ross has donated over $14 million to Penn State, and with her commitment, construction could begin.

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.

Coe shared her vision and goals for the “world-class museum at a world-class university.” Coe hopes to have an art museum ready to meet the needs of visitors, too.

“With the Arboretum, a cultural destination and epicenter, the new Palmer will seamlessly integrate art, architecture, and nature” Coe said.

The building is designed by Allied Works, some of their projects include the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, aligning with Penn State’s efforts in sustainability.

“Our team was immediately inspired for the opportunity to bring the Palmer and its extraordinary collection to this landscape. To engage the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and the surrounding Arboretum”, Grassinger, the project’s arhitect, explained. “We were compelled to exponentially knit together the museum and Arboretum, connecting people to landscape, landscape to art, and art to light.”

Carpenter, dean of Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture, said the history of the project’s land can’t be forgotten.

“We acknowledge and honor the original caretakers of these lands and strive to understand and model responsible stewardship”, a statement made in collaboration with the Indigenous People Student Association and the Indigenous Faculty Alliance at Penn State. “We also acknowledge the long history of these lands and our place in these histories”.

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.

More information about the Palmer Museum of Art is available online.

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About the Author

Aubrey Miller

Aubrey is a third-year landscape architecture major and a writer for Onward State. She is from North Carolina, but can't stand country music. Aubrey is obsessed with her four cats, and some would say too obsessed. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @aubreymillerr to see her cat posts.

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