Pa. gives Art Museum $5 million for renovations

Posted: August 02, 2014

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has received a $5 million grant from the state to help fund $150 million to $160 million in major renovations and upgrades to the main building and its nearly 500,000 square feet of interior space.

The renovations are a critical part of a long-planned transformation and expansion, which ultimately will include new gallery spaces beneath the museum terrace at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The state funds, however, will not go toward creation of any new galleries - under the terrace or within the museum - nor will they help create a new museum education center.

Rather, the money will help improve special-needs accessibility; repair and upgrade building systems; improve fire and life safety systems; and bring the 1928 building up to 21st-century code.

41/2-year renovation

The renovations, along with major interior construction involving the removal of the auditorium and the opening up of the museum interior, are expected to take about 41/2 years.

At a gathering Thursday of state and museum officials at the museum, Susan Corbett, wife of Gov. Corbett and chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, said the funds would help "increase accessibility to the museum's extraordinary exhibitions and programs while adding to the economic vitality of the region."

The money comes out of the state's bond-funded Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which largely supports economic-development construction. Projects are assessed on the basis of their job-creation potential, among other criteria.

Economic impact

In acknowledging the grant, Constance H. Williams, chairwoman of the museum board of trustees, focused on the museum's economic role in regional life. "An investment in the museum is ultimately an investment in the local and regional economy," she said, adding that over the last five years, the museum's "economic impact across the region has been more than $1 billion."

"We are especially delighted," said Williams, "that these much-needed funds will support the upgrade of the building infrastructure, which is vital to the museum's continued success."

Museum officials said future construction projects - the new education center, for instance, and new gallery space in both wings of the building - would require upgraded systems before any kind of capital construction could move forward.

Officials declined to say how much money had been raised so far for the renovation project. No public fund-raising campaign has been announced by the museum.

215-854-5594 @SPSalisbury

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