Penn State

Penn State plans multi-million dollar facility to replace Palmer Museum of Art

See the installation of ‘Breaking Column III’

Philip Rickey, president of the George Rickey Foundation, and several other artists install the sculpture "Breaking Column III" in the Palmer Museum of Art plaza.
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Philip Rickey, president of the George Rickey Foundation, and several other artists install the sculpture "Breaking Column III" in the Palmer Museum of Art plaza.

A new art museum at Penn State took its first steps Friday when the Penn State Board of Trustees approved an architect for the $71 million project.

The museum would be located in The Arboretum at Penn State, according to a news release from the university, and would replace the existing Palmer Museum of Art and include expanded gallery and exhibition space.

Called the University Art Museum, the 68,000- to 73,000-square-foot building would be funded by Penn State’s five-year capital plan that runs through 2023, according to the release. The total project budget of $71.1 million could increase to as much as $85 million with philanthropic support.

“The new art museum would allow us to advance Penn State’s teaching and research mission while serving as the cultural gateway to the University,” Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art, said in the release. “The new facility would greatly expand public access to our growing collections in an exceptional setting while offering innovative and engaging experiences for our students, the community, and visitors from around the world.”

“Palmer” is not included in the name at the suggestion of the late Barbara Palmer, according to the release, but “the Palmer name and legacy would still have a prominent place in the new facility,” the university said.

The exact site of the University Art Museum within the Arboretum in still to be determined, according to the release, with the proposed location along Bigler Road, across from the Lewis Katz Building.

“This project would fulfill our long-standing vision of the Arboretum as a venue for the arts as well as a place of beauty and education about the natural world,” Kim Steiner, professor of forest biology and director of The Arboretum at Penn State, said in the release.

The board of trustees approved the selection of Allied Works, the firm that also designed the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and others, as the architect to design the new University Art Museum.

Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2020 for a planned fall 2022 opening.

“The Arboretum is already one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the area. With this inspired partnership, I expect us to develop into a regional and national destination,” Steiner said.

A task force will determine how the existing Palmer Museum building on Curtin Road can be utilized as a student-focused space. The iconic bronze lion’s paws outside of the building will remain, the university said.

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