MUSKEGON — In mid-March the Muskegon Museum of Art announced a $9.9 million expansion plan to add additional gallery space to the facility, which — according to museum officials — has already been mostly funded.
“For the first year it’s been a quiet campaign behind the scenes, and by announcement we were up to $7.2 million or $7.3 million,” said Executive Director Kirk Hallman. “Then on March 16 we brought the campaign public and have nudged it up to $7.4 million, and hopefully by this summer we’ll wrap it up.”
Hallman said plans for a museum expansion have been in the works for several years. Nearly 20 years ago the museum purchased a nearby medical arts building, which was subsequently torn down to make space for parking, and then later purchased an additional parking lot. The extra space will allow the museum to increase its permanent exhibition space by more than 200 percent and its rotating exhibition space by 60 percent.
“It’s been a long strategic process,” Hallman said. “Finally a couple of years ago we were ready to do the campaign to do the expansion because we have about 5,000 pieces in the collection and we do about 15 to 20 rotating exhibitions every year. It’s a high quality collection, and we can only get in our current space maybe 150 pieces at a time. So there’s a big need to show more of the collection, to have touring exhibitions come in, and have some better improved classroom space.”
Museum officials have also learned lessons during the pandemic to incorporate into the expansion, including a refurbished HVAC system.
“It drives a lot of interesting possibilities that a year ago we never would have thought of,” Hallman said.
The museum stores the vast majority of its collection in underground vaults beneath the premises. The proposed expansion will allow a larger portion of its permanent collection to be shown, while at the same time creating additional gallery space to host large touring shows that Hallman believes will make it a “destination regional museum.”
“It’s going to have a tremendous economic impact for not only the city of Muskegon, but for West Michigan as well,” Hallman said.
In 2017, the museum experimented with its own large collection of Edward Curtis’ photography to draw in larger audiences.
“We turned the whole museum over to that show, and we got 40,000 people from all 50 states and 29 countries,” Hallman said. “It was a huge success, and we know we can pull those crowds in.”
The Muskegon Museum of Art plans to break ground on its expansion project this fall and officials hope to begin construction by early 2022.
Muskegon-based marketing agency New School created the brochures that have been used in much of the museum’s fundraising efforts throughout the past year. New School Director of Brand Strategy Josh Herder told MiBiz that the agency is no stranger to working with local nonprofits.
“It’s a soft spot for us,” Herder said. “We really have a heart for West Michigan nonprofits and helping support them in any way we can.”
The agency has previously worked with nonprofits including the Grand Haven YMCA, Gracious Grounds, and The Arc. The Muskegon Museum of Art, however, was an especially exciting project for Herder, who says the museum was a large part of his childhood education.
“Not a lot of people understand what that museum is capable of,” Herder said. “This expansion is going to be incredible for them. We’re just happy to have been a part of helping raise that money in an efficient manner for them.”
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