Another $8.6 million will come from Campaign from the Arts, a private fundraising group drumming up financial backing for the museum and theater projects. The city has agreed to provide “gap financing” to get the construction going and to be repaid by the private contributions.
The Whatcom Museum Society, which operates the museum jointly with the city of Bellingham, has also pledged $1 million for furniture and equipment.
Will they be able to raise enough money?
Campaign for the Arts has raised about $4.6 million so far, said Ken Culver, president of the board of directors.
“Many of our prospective donors, as well as some of our existing donors, had put provisos on their gift, which was the gift was contingent on construction,” Culver said. The award of the construction bid “allows us to go back and talk to people who said, ‘Come back and talk to me when you know a little more.’”
Now that dirt is ready to fly, Culver said, the fundraising campaign will probably go more public this fall.
Why is a new museum needed?
The museum’s current buildings, including the 1892 Old City Hall and the ARCO Exhibits Building, don’t have heating, ventilation and humidity control system that provide safekeeping for artwork, said Les Reardanz, the museum’s interim operations manager. That means many traveling exhibits won’t stop in Bellingham, he said.
“People want to see records of how your humidity’s been,” Reardanz said.
The current museum also is short on classroom and storage space, and the Children’s Museum is often crowded, according to the museum’s 2004 facility planning report.
What will happen to the old buildings?
The Old City Hall Building will be devoted to history exhibits, said Jeff McClure, president of the Museum Society.
The society hasn’t decided what to do with the buildings that now house the Children’s museum and the ARCO building, McClure said. They might be sold, he said, or rented to provide an income to help run the expanded museum.
The Syre Education Center will continue to house photo archives and offices, Reardanz said.
What will the new museum be like?
The building’s most prominent feature will be a tall, curving, translucent, glass wall that will wrap around the entry courtyard. The “light catcher” will illuminate the inside of the building during the day and let light pass through at night. It can also be used to reflect images such as artwork and movies.
Inside, the first floor of the museum will be about one-third children’s museum, on-third art gallery and one-third common area. The children’s museum and part of the art gallery will have a 20-foot ceiling that could allow for multilevel exhibits. There will also be more art gallery space on the second floor.
“We want to be able to drive a 10-by 10 by 10-(foot) sized cube through this structure to make it more accessible for art,” said Decker, public facilities district manager.
How much more space will they have?
The Children’s Museum now has about 4,000 square feet, and the Arco Exhibits Building has about 6,000, McClure said. The new museum, including two stories and a basement, will have 41,000 square feet.
Will the museum have enough art to pull in the new building?
Yes, Reardanz said. The Whatcom Museum of History & art has about 2,500 works of art in its collection and also belongs to Washington Arts Consortium, which includes works of art from other galleries throughout the state.
Can a children’s museum and an art gallery really coexist in the same building?
Museum officials believe they can, thanks to sound proofing in the children’s museum. They also hope to take advantage of the proximity.
“If somebody comes there for one purpose, to come to the children’s museum or participate in an educational program,” McClure said, “you could literally fall into the art gallery and have an experience you wouldn’t have had if you had to go outside to another building.”
How will additional operating costs be covered?
Part of the Campaign for the Arts’ pledge including a $3 million endowment, which at 5 percent annual interest could generate about $150,000 a year, Reardanz said. Renting out the Museum Society’s buildings could generate more income.
How was the architect selected?
Olson Sunberg Kundig Allen Architects of Seattle was selected in 2005 in a juried design competition.
What happens next?
A groundbreaking ceremony and the beginning of construction is planned for August.
Reach Mary Lane Gallagher at 715-2285 or email@example.com.