Plans for Calder museum scrapped Gov. Rendell withdrew state funds for a Parkway site honoring the sculptor, with talks between the city and the family frozen.

Posted: September 14, 2005

There won't be an Alexander Calder museum on the Parkway after all.

After a year of waiting for negotiations between the Calder Foundation of New York and the city over loans of art, financing and related concerns to be resolved, Gov. Rendell has withdrawn the offer of $15 million in state capital money to help fund the project.

The deal-breaker appears to have been the reluctance of Calder family members to commit loans of art for extended periods. Without agreement on this key issue, private fund-raising to match Rendell's offer - a condition for receiving state money - stalled.

Kate Philips, the governor's press secretary, said yesterday that "a string of events led to the conclusion that this project was not moving forward. The inability to bring all the pieces together required the governor to face reality, that this [the museum] is not going to happen."

Philips said that difficulties in working out the details of a contract between the foundation and the city appeared insurmountable.

"It seems that all the parties have walked away from the table," she said.

Philips' remarks suggest that there appears to be little or no chance that Rendell will be given a reason to reverse his decision.

"There are millions of dollars of capital projects waiting for funding, so it's not a challenge for the governor to redirect this money," Philips said.

A local organization headed by Diane Dalto, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, has been working for more than four years to raise construction and endowment money for the museum, which would be dedicated to the work of the famed, Philadelphia-born sculptor who invented the mobile.

The foundation had even engaged Japanese architect Tadao Ando to create a preliminary design for the museum.

The city donated two acres on the south side of the Parkway between 21st and 22d Streets, across from the Rodin Museum. Last fall, this site was transformed into a temporary sculpture park with works on loan from the Calder Foundation under a $5 million program subsidized by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

That program to place Calder sculptures along the Parkway apparently is not affected by the collapse of the museum initiative. Neither Dalto nor Alexander Rower, foundation director, could be reached yesterday for comment on either situation.

Along with the planned relocation of the Barnes Foundation, a Calder museum has been a key element in a project to transform the Parkway into a major art venue that would attract domestic and foreign cultural tourists.

With major works here by Calder's father and grandfather - the Swann Fountain in Logan Circle and the statue of William Penn atop City Hall, respectively - the museum would have made Philadelphia the world capital of Calder art.

Contact art critic Edward J. Sozanski at 215-854-5595 or esozanski@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/edwardsozanski.

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