A special groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for the soon-to-be constructed Stark Museum Library and Archive and Art Education Wing. Pictured, from left to right, are Rob Clark, Vice President, Architectural Alliance; Larry David, Chairman of Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation; Trina Nelson Thomas, Director of Stark Art and History Venues; Walter G. Riedel, III, President and CEO of Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation; Jerry Vandervoort, Project Executive, SpawGlass Corporation; Kenneth Eberling, Area Manager, Honeywell Building Solutions; and Gus Harris, Chief Properties Officer of Stark Foundation. Photo by Tommy Mann Jr. 

By Tommy Mann Jr. – The Record

The future is looking bright for the Stark Museum of Art.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held this past Thursday on the east side of the Stark Museum of Art in advance of the construction of a new, two-story structure. The first floor will serve as the Art Education Wing and the second story of the project will house the Eunice R. Beckenstein Library and Archive.

“Our addition to the museum will help serve our educational and artistic programs,” said Walter Riedel III, president and CEO of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation. “The Stark Museum reached more than 13,000 guests in 2013.”

The new two-story addition will be approximately 15,000 square-foot, cost approximately $7 million to $8 million and is expected to open in 2017. It will include ceramic tile throughout the addition, include an elevator, lighting system which will utilize LED technology in the majority of the structure, along with occupancy sensors.

According to Riedel, the new building will be built primarily from concrete and steel and will make it virtually fireproof.

“This building is even designed to withstand a category 5 hurricane,” Riedel added.

The Stark Foundation decided now was the time to expand the Stark Museum based on recent growth patterns.

To date, general visition has already increased 10 percent compared to 2014 and school program attendance has increased 31 percent.

In 2015, to date, more than 100 education-facilitated public programming days have taken place and more than 6,300 visits to the education studio for various art making projects by school students and public studio program participants.

“This is such an incredible opportunity for our program,” said Jennifer Restauri, Curator of Education. “Our eduction studio has been retrofitted to suit our needs, but it gets kind of hard when you don’t have sinks or a drain in the floor.”

The Art Education Wing, which will replace the education studio outbuilding where art programs are currently offered for the various education programs, will provide additional space for growth of programs. It will include two studios, along with a multi-purpose room, gallery, restroom, storage and a small kitchen-area for catering.

“Having a dedicated space will really underscore our philosophy at the museum,” she added. “I come from an education background, and I like to get hands-on and be involved in whatever art we are creating with the students. We believe in active-learning and having a building on site will allow us to increase those experiences. We will even be able to do special programs and lectures.”

The second floor of the new addition, the Eunice R. Beckenstein Library and Archive, will house the very valuable and important Stark Foundation Archive collections, which also includes historic documents and photographs of the Stark and Lutcher families, some of which date back to the Civil War, according to Riedel.

Many of these valuable documents include information on the social activities and charitable endeavors made by the families, plus various business concerns and activities in Orange and other areas.

“We have so many amazing collections here,” said Trina Nelson Thomas, director of Stark Art and History Venues. “I’m proud that you can come here and talk art, look at art and make art, and you don’t have to be an expert at any of those to do it.”

Thomas said having the new addition to the Stark Museum of Art will allow the museum the opportunity to try new things it previously had been unable to do.

“This adds a layer on what we can offer the community,” Thomas added. “We want to expand our adult-offerings, and this will allow us to do that.”

One example, according to Thomas, will be the inclusion of a kiln, which will allow the Stark Museum to potentially offer programs in the making of ceramics and “maybe some glass processes.”

“This building will be another resource for the Stark Museum,” Thomas continued. “We want to continue our programs with the schools, but we also want people to consider us as an option when doing stuff with the family.”

Visit www.starkculturalvenues.org for more information on the Stark Museum of Art and all other Stark Foundation venues.