Construction set to begin on Capital Region's only art museum - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Construction set to begin on Capital Region's only art museum

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What's now an empty and old bank building in Harrisburg will soon become a construction zone as the building is transformed into the Capital Region's only art museum.

Though it's been around for 24 years, the Susquehanna Art Museum is a museum without a home. Now, they have plans to transform the old Keystone Bank building at the corner of 3rd and Calder Streets into 7,000 square feet of exhibition space.

"Welcome to our new museum," executive director Laurene Buckley said while standing in the building. A 90-year-old vault is embedded in the wall behind her. To her left, teller windows sit empty.

But Buckley has high hopes and dreams for the building.

"We could have a yoga class in there with art," she said, examining the artist's rendering of the future museum. "Imagine that -- meditation with art surrounding you."

Starting in mid-April, the demolition team will start to prepare the building for the construction team, with work scheduled to begin in late summer and the grand opening set for the fall of 2014.

Harrisburg resident Sarah Begashaw said she can't wait.

"We often travel to like New York or Baltimore, and whenever we travel to a new place we like to go to art museums, so we're excited that it will be so local that we'll be able to walk," she said.

In the building's transformation, Buckley said she also plans to capitalize on the building's history.

"You'll see a huge vault, we're going to use that," she said. "There are still the old safe deposit boxes that we'd love to use in some way."

Since its early years, the museum has found its home on wheels; a repurposed school bus called VanGO!

At different times through the year, the bus drives to different schools and an art educator teaches the children about art and its importance.

"I think VanGO! is the sole source, in some cases, of exposure to art," said President of the Board Jack Scott. "And it's not only just exposure to art and the people who run the bus are great educators in art."

By the fall of 2014, VanGO! won't be alone. The Susquehanna Art Museum plans to open its 3rd Street location, complete with gallery, educational and event space.

To save on costs, the museum won't have its own collection but will rather borrow from other museums across that state and country.

Buckley said she plans to use this to the museum's advantage and bring in art that the community wants to see. She said community members should be prepared to see, among other things, paintings, sculptures, photos, prints and even pieces from local artists fill the museum.

The entire project is set to cost $7 million. The Susquehanna Art Museum currently has $6 million; $5.5 million in grants and half a million in pledges.

"We're close enough to make it happen," Scott said. "With $1 million from the capital campaign [which was just launched] we'll be able to open debt free and we're hoping to be able to have a bit more to help the sustainability of the museum on a long term basis."

Area resident Ryan Zuch said he's looking forward to more than just the art that the museum will bring.

"I'm excited at the size of the investment they're putting into this building," Zuch said. "It's really significant and I think there's a potential for it to start other investments in the neighborhood."

In order to ensure that the museum is accessible to the entire community, Buckley said they're  considering using a "pay-what-you-want" model.

To find out how to contribute to the Susquehanna Art Museum, click here: http://sqart.org/

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