Published: February 19, 2002
PORTLAND, MAINE. – On Saturday, October 5, the new Portland Museum of Art will open to the public.
The focal points of the opening are the two fully restored historic buildings: the McLellan House (1800-1801), a National Historic Landmark and preeminent example of Federal-era architecture, closed to the public since 1980, and the Lorenzo deMedici (LDM) Sweat Memorial Galleries (1911), a series of sky-lit Beaux-Arts galleries and the exhibition space for the museum’s collection until 1980.
These magnificent historic structures will be united with the museum’s modern Charles Shipman Payson building (1983), designed by I.M. Pei & Partners, to create a unique museum complex spanning three centuries of art and architecture.
The new museum complex will chart the evolution of the American art museum, creating a visitor experience unlike any in the nation.
When the new Portland Museum of Art opens, visitors will be able to travel through three architecturally significant buildings that span two centuries. From the post-modern Charles Shipman Payson building (an American museum in the late Twentieth Century) to the early Twentieth Century LDM Sweat Memorial Galleries (exemplifying early professionalism of American museums) to an early Nineteenth Century home (whose transformation into a museum in 1908 reflects early efforts to record and collect American history), together these buildings embody the history of the American art museum.
Upon completion, the newly-restored LDM Sweat Memorial Galleries will create a space to exhibit a far greater portion of the museum’s permanent collections, particularly its growing collection of Nineteenth Century American paintings, sculpture and decorative arts.
The grace and allure of the John Calvin Stevens-designed galleries will provide a historic setting that will serve as an ideal transition between the modern Charles Shipman Payson building and the Federal-era McLellan House.
The galleries will showcase American art up to 1900, an important period in American history in which artists attempted to establish and define an America identity.
Winslow Homer, the father of American art, will be the highlighted artist with a gallery reserved exclusively for his work. In addition, the lower ground floor of the galleries will include newly-designed studio spaces for artmaking activities, doubling the previous studio space.
The completely preserved McLellan House will become a center for the study of Nineteenth Century American art. The interior finish of the house will be restored to the Federal period and the principal rooms will be installed with vibrant wall colors, wallpapers, carpeting and furniture that will encourage active use of the space and will provide an appropriate learning environment.
Visitors will use state-of-the-art interactive computer technology at mobile workstations to make meaningful connections among the architectural and design features of the house and Nineteenth Century works in the museum’s collection.
By learning about past residents of the house, visitors will be able to explore detailed information about the social, economic, political and artistic history of the Nineteenth Century, and to see how the story of art and patronage in Nineteenth Century America was shaped. In addition to the educational role that this dynamic center will assume, it will also provide comfortable and elegant spaces for activities, including meetings, lectures and receptions.
The museum’s restoration and construction project, which began in October 2000, is costing $8.6 million to complete. Ann Beha Architects of Boston, a firm with extensive experience working with historic properties, has been involved in the project as the chief architect from its very early planning stages.
Pamela W. Hawkes is the principal architect on the project. Pizzagalli Construction Company of South Portland, Maine, is overseeing and managing the construction process and is the same company responsible for the construction of the museum’s I.M. Pie & Partners building, completed in 1983.
The Portland Museum of Art is at Seven Congress Square. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Thursday and Friday. Beginning June 27, museum admission will change to $8 for adults. The museum is free on Friday evenings from 5 to 9 pm. For information, 207-775-6148 or 800-639-4067 or www.portlandmuseum.org.
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