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Asheville Art Museum launches temporary expansion plans

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11/2/2011 - Asheville Art Museum launches temporary expansion plans
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

After eight years of talking about the future, Asheville Art Museum leaders are in action mode.

With the recent relocation of the Health Adventure to Biltmore Square Mall, the art museum has started renovation of that previously occupied space to include new galleries and art education components for children and families.

The grand opening of the project, dubbed Art WORKS Primed, is set for Feb. 29, and will double the size of the museum. The programming is designed to temporarily fill the space while the museum continues to raise money for a permanent expansion.

For Pam Myers, executive director of the Asheville Art Museum, the interim expansion plan is an opportunity to "transform lives through art."

The transitional expansion plans are designed to take advantage of the space now available but not to add any cost to the new museum project budget of $24 million.

"It's going to be a raw, stripped-down public art facility," she said. "We are trying to be as green and lean as possible."

As they renovate the space, "we are passing off material to anybody who can use it," said Myers, including Habitat for Humanity.

The museum has raised $7.3 million, or about 44 percent of the construction cost, from individuals, foundations businesses and government agencies.

Construction of the new museum is planned to begin in spring 2014.

As they continue to raise money, the transitional period is also a time for the museum to "see what works and what doesn't," Myers said, noting that this experimental phase will result in "fine-tuned" plans for the permanent expansion.

More than 100 volunteers, designers, architects and artists developed these plans for the past three months, and painting and cleaning in what will be the new East Wing of the museum has already begun.

Asheville sculptor Hoss Haley is working on an installation that will inaugurate the Artworks Project Space in the East Wing. "Without this opportunity, a project on this scale would be somewhere on the backwaters of my mind and as sketches in my notebooks," Haley said.

The art museum is also creating a new shop and visitor services center in the lobby of Pack Place, and its front door will shift to what is now the shared entrance of the center facing North Pack Square. The existing North Wing will remain open as the new spaces are renovated.

The Asheville Art Museum's expansion plans hinged on the relocation of the Health Adventure, which was scheduled for 2011 when museum leaders announced their expansion in plans in 2009.

The Health Adventure had been in Pack Place since 1992 and planned to move to a new $25 million museum on a 10-acre site in Montford. In April, the ambitious plans evaporated when the nonprofit declared bankruptcy and Park Ridge Health stepped forward to fund the Health Adventure.

The Health Adventure closed on Oct. 9 to move to its new home at Biltmore Square Mall, and plans to have a grand opening weekend at its new site Nov. 18-20.

Art WORKS Primed

Primary artPLAYce, a hands-on art space for children and families. The self-guided family art center will feature interactive art activities, such as three-dimensional building activities based on local architecture, as well as interactive exhibits based on artwork in the museum's permanent collection. It will be open during museum hours and by admission or membership only. The primary artPLAYce will be a 1,600-square-foot addition, as well as almost 2,750 square feet of additional studio, classroom and theater space.
East Wing Exhibitions. The transitional facilities will include almost 7,000 square feet of additional gallery space. Two new galleries will be used to present more exhibition-based educational programming, work from the permanent collection, exhibitions featuring regional artists and showcase more traveling exhibitions curated at museums around the country. "Fire on the Mountain: Studio Glass in Western North Carolina," will open in February in the one of new first floor East Wing galleries, and will examine the history of the Studio Glass movement and its ties to the region.
"Prime Time: New Media Juried Exhibition," will debut in the New Media Gallery in the East Wing. The New Media Gallery will focus on video, new media installation and creative use of computers and communication technology.
Artworks Project Space. This space in the East Wing will be reserved for site-specific, original art installations. This space will be inaugurated with the exhibition "Artworks Project Space Series: Hoss Haley," in February. This exhibition will increase access to and understanding of one of the region's most distinctive and influential sculptors. Hoss Haley's installation will open in February 2012 in the East Wing of the museum. Haley, of Asheville, creates two- and three-dimensional works in steel, concrete and bronze.
Expanded museum shop and visitors' center. Renovations will include a large-scale light installation by a regional artist and an expanded museum shop.
Biltmore Gallery. With the completion of the interim expansion, an exhibition in a gallery adjacent to Biltmore Avenue will present the overarching portrait of the preliminary plans developed by Ennead Architects, LLC for the new museum, and will explore the creative process of architecture.

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