Wednesday, March 17 2010
Old Gallery is first part of $17.5 million project
EVANSVILLE — A newly renovated Old Gallery opened to the public Sunday at the Evansville Museum, showcasing a small portion of a planned $17.5 million project that also includes an expansion.
The exhibit space had been closed since January. It originally was dedicated in 1985 as part of the museum's South Wing addition.
"We're making something old new again," said Museum Director John Streetman. "At that time, there was no other venue for people in the arts to show their work."
The 5,000-square-foot gallery is the museum's largest changing exhibit space. Since its opening 25 years ago, more than just art has graced its space.
The gallery has hosted receptions, community events and concerts.
"It became, really, kind of the living room of our community," Streetman said.
The multipurpose gallery has received new walls, wall coverings, floor covering and lighting. In addition, from the end of the gallery facing the Ohio River and adjacent to the gallery's kitchen are facilities that can be closed off and used for smaller meetings and activities.
It is named the Charlotte M. Richardt Memorial Room in honor of a longtime museum benefactor.
The approximately $700,000 overhaul received major funding from Old National Bank. The gallery originally was created with funding from the bank in honor of Dorothea Schlechte, who opened the first Old Gallery in 1964 in a bank branch at Washington Square Mall.
The public unveiling of the renovated gallery also kicked off a public portion of the museum's "Reach for the Stars" fundraising campaign to underwrite the proposed expansion.
Already, the museum has quietly raised $13 million toward its goal from area corporations, foundations and other major donors.
"The public campaign is just the next step. Our commitment is to keep those signs up until the last penny is raised," said Jeffrey Berger, a museum trustee.
Streetman said raising the remaining $4.5 million is essential to maintaining the quality and extending the life of the institution. He said the Evansville Museum is one of only about 50 general museums still operating in the United States.
"Never have we needed it more than we need it now," he said. "If we don't raise the $4.5 million, we don't do the rest of the project."
When the expansion is completed, it will include a 21/2-story glass pavilion main entrance, a new planetarium and immersive theater; new history and science exhibition spaces; a family gallery for hands-on science learning; a permanent exhibit about Evansville's involvement in the World War II home front, including the LST shipyards; two learning centers for classes and workshops; space for the museum's art consultation service; new museum shop; and needed infrastructure improvements.
"This has got to work. This is my favorite place in town," said Sharon Harrison.
The Downtown resident said she frequents the museum and attends art classes there.
Shirley Tarter, another Downtown resident, said the museum is an important part of the continuing Downtown improvements. "It's important not to neglect the sciences and arts," she said.