Museum officials and architects announced the start of the three-year project on Tuesday. Architect Tadao Ando, far right, who also designed the Clark's Stone Hill Center, said the new center will be 'a good experience.' Take a virtual tour below.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — One of the county's biggest tourist attractions revealed its plans for a massive expansion that is expected to boost the local economy.
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute announced a $145 million renovation and expansion of the museum's campus that includes a new visitors, exhibition and conference center. The project is expected to not only enhance the county's creative and tourism economy in the long-term but also employ local workers for the construction for the next three years.
"There are 500 jobs for the Berkshires over the course of the next three years in just the building of the project and the analysis of it, as I've been told even though the study is not complete yet, that the project — not the Clark itself but the enhancement of the Clark — is going to have a $9 million annual impact on the economy of the Berkshires," Michael Conforti, museum director, said on Tuesday. "It's a very, very positive message in terms of what we will be doing for the economy, not only the ongoing cultural tourism and contributing even more significantly in our role of attracting tourist from near and far but also just being able to employ people in this county."
The museum will close the galleries on Nov. 13 to prepare for the reconstruction that is expected to be complete in June 2014. For those three years, the museum will ship some of its most beloved works to other museums throughout the world in cultural exchanges, which is expected to give the Clark access to precious work from other museums in the future.
"I think the Berkshires has to appreciate that in order to get special access to other kinds of collections like the Prado and in order to promote what we have here, this kind of sacrifice is necessary," Conforti said.
However, the museum is not planning on closing its doors. While some of those works are on the road, the Clark Art will be featuring special exhibitions and highlight some of its collection that may have been overlooked in its current research area. On Nov. 13, the museum will be debuting a "Rembrandt and Degas: Two Young Artists" — a show that museum officials said has received high praise at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
"The traveling exhibition consists of 73 painting and, yes, they are some of the most beloved paintings of impressionism in academic art but we have 423 paintings remaining, as well as hundreds of works of decorative art and sculpture and 5,000 works on paper," curator Richard Rand said. "This gives us an opportunity to work with parts of the collection that are not always highlighted."
Director Michael Conforti said the expansion project alone will create 500 jobs and pump $9 million a year into the county's economy.
The new 44,000 square-foot center will be the new focal point of arrival and create a new entrance and visitor reception area. It will increase the amount of gallery space by 10,500 square feet and feature an expanded retail area, cafes and dining areas. There will also be a large reflecting pool that will double as an ice skating area in the winter.
The center was designed by famed architect Tadao Ando, who also designed the Stone Hill Center.
"The experience of the Clark is just inside the building," Ando, of Osaka, Japan, said through a translator. "It will become a place that can provide a good experience for people."
In the end, Ando, who is known for integrating nature into his designs, believes the Clark Art will become the "most unique museum experience" in the world. In addition to the reflecting pool, another 2 miles of hiking trails and new landscaping will enhance the museum's 140 acres. Landscape architect Gary Hilderbrand said the plans were designed to capitalize on the scenic beauty of the region.
"You live in an incredible region," Hilderbrand said. "It's not secret that the Clark is a piece of property that the entire community takes pride in."
While the exterior will see extensive changes, the current galleries will only lightly be touched, said architect Annabelle Selldorf. The project will renovate the lighting, climate control systems and surfaces.
"Our mandate was to refurbish it and to not change anything," Selldorf said in a jocular manner.
The galleries will look and feel almost the same except "younger," she said. The research center will also be expanded and some rooms in the museum that are not currently used for exhibitions will be used.
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Let the whining commence. Too much traffic. Too "in your face". What's it going to do to my view. The bats, what about the bats. They're gonna die. What about drainage. Oh God, the drainage. The pond...what will happen to the pond. What about another hurricane? This is going to lead to Biomass. How many trees are going to get cut? What are we going to name our opposition group? Williamstown First? Friends of Enemies of the Clark? Come on, you know it's coming.
It is very unlikely that this project will infuse $9 million per year to the local economy. A project of this size needs large subcontracting companies, which frankly, we do not have in this area. Therefore, the general contractor will be forced to bring in labor and companies from neighboring areas like Springfield and Albany, which is just close enough for the workers to not have to stay overnight in the area. It is going to be the same case for the library project at Williams, which was touted as a local economy booster. I would realy like to see an actual comparison of local labor vs imported labor on these projects when they really get going, and a survey of how many construction workers actually go get lunch at Papa Charlies vs bring their own.
Editor: Actually, $9 million might be low. A 2003 study found the museum had a more than $40 million annual economic impact on the region and its fortunes have not waned despite the economic collapse. Those numbers are a combination of direct and multiplier effects. Outside companies may be hired as general contractors but they subcontract here, buy materials here, buy food, gas, etc., putting money in local pockets and creating local jobs. The $9 million is an initial estimate; a study is being done.
Way to include the architectural firm! These project stories are always such an ego fest when you don't see the entire team behind them and the real impact they have on the local economy. When they have their contractors, it would be nice to see how many of them are local ( which I'm also sure many locals will get in on it too)