New Putman Pavilion at Michener Museum hopes to draw crowds

Workers install benches in the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden on Tuesday, in time for the dedication of the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion (center) at the Michener Museum in Doylestown on Wednesday.
Workers install benches in the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden on Tuesday, in time for the dedication of the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion (center) at the Michener Museum in Doylestown on Wednesday. (The museum director has ambitious plans for the site. Story, B4.)
Posted: April 18, 2012

Picture this: You're listening to a jazz concert or dancing at a wedding reception in a glass jewel box overlooking a sculpture garden. The backdrop is a 19th-century stone prison wall.

You take a stroll through adjacent galleries filled with art by Pennsylvania Impressionists and Italian masters.

That's the picturesque setting the James A. Michener Art Museum will unveil Wednesday evening in Doylestown, as it dedicates the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion.

Three of the pavilion's walls are floor-to-ceiling, 23-foot-tall panels of glass made in Germany. The side walls provide views of black-granite sculptures in the redesigned garden, while the 70-foot front wall faces the 23-foot wall of the former Bucks County Prison, dating to 1884.

"The glass curtain wall is, we believe, the largest glass curtain wall in North America," museum director Bruce Katsiff said Tuesday. "Normally, glass walls have glass fins . . . for support. These are self-supporting."

The building and landscape designs by two prominent Philadelphia firms - KieranTimberlake and OLIN - will probably attract "architecture geeks," Katsiff said.

But he's more interested in filling the 2,700-square-foot, 200-seat space with lectures, concerts, and receptions as a "new source of income" for the region's second-most-visited museum. "Rental activity is an important source of revenue for museums.

"The hope is that most Saturday nights there will be weddings," Katsiff said.

There already are 21 weddings booked, for rental fees of $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the day of the week and the season. A bridal show is scheduled for April 29.

Private parties must use the museum's exclusive caterer, Jeffrey A. Miller, but can book their own entertainers, florists, and other services. Rental includes admission to the museum's galleries - food and drink are not allowed there - with an additional charge for special exhibits.

The museum also will host events in the pavilion, such as the popular Jazz Nights it has been offering for about 18 years.

The $5 million pavilion was a small, elegant project - "it came in on budget and on time," Katsiff boasted. It is the second step of the museum's five-phase expansion that started with the opening of the Syd and Sharon Martin Wing in 2009.

Starting this week, the Martin Wing will house the museum's first major traveling exhibition of European art, "Offering of the Angels - Treasures from the Uffizi." The exhibit of 44 paintings and tapestries by Renaissance and Baroque masters such as Sandro Botticelli, Il Parmigianino, and Lorenzo Monaco are expected to draw 250,000 visitors through Aug. 10.

The Edgar N. Putman Pavilion is named for a longtime museum benefactor, thanks to a "seven-figure gift" by his son and daughter-in-law, Kevin and Paula Putman . Kevin Putman

is chairman of the museum's board of directors.

"The sweet thing is that [Kevin Putman] did it while his father was alive," Katsiff said. "He didn't live to see it, but he knew it was going to happen."


Contact Bill Reed

at 215-801-2964, wreed@philly.com, or follow @breedbucks on Twitter. Read

his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.

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