Art museum breaks ground on education center

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The Nassau County Museum of Art was closed this week during preparation for three photography exhibitions that open on Saturday. But such closings for the replacement of art in the museum’s exhibition space will soon become a thing of the past. Last Sunday work began in earnest on a renovated exhibition and education building: the Manes Family Art and Education Center.

“We are very excited about this new space that builds upon the many exhibition and education initiatives at Nassau County Museum of Art,” said Karl Emil Willers, the museum director. 

The Manes Center will open next spring after renovation and reconstruction of a building that had been in disrepair. It will feature a contemporary art exhibition space surrounded by classrooms, with each classroom dedicated to a specific type of art learning, according to a statement from the museum. 

A ground-breaking  took place on Sunday, when 50 people attended an event for museum staff, community leaders and local elected officials, among them Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages and Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages. 

“We will now have more of a proper professional studio space [for visitors] to make art,” said Laura Lynch, the museum’s director of education. “The Manes Center extends our offerings for the community to accommodate different learning styles and abilities.” Willers estimates that the museum  serves as many as 30,000 school children each year. 

A new tech-equipped classroom will allow visitors to experiment with technological advances in the arts, and a combination indoor-outdoor classroom will improve the museum’s art and nature programs, Willers said. 

The museum will hire a director for the building as well as additional security guards, he said. Current educational programs, whether sketching classes for adults or an art therapy groups for children with autism, will shift to the new building, Lynch said. 

The museum plans to add new programs as well.  

“Eventually we want to have outdoor film screenings and animation festivals,” Lynch said. “I have a lot of dreams.”

Efforts to raise money for a renovation of the building began as many as six years ago, but the project proved costly because the building had fallen into disrepair. 

“The building was closed after superstorm Sandy,” Willers said. “A few trees fell on the building. It had already flooded frequently before that.” 

Until a large donation one year ago, the museum remained well short of the funds needed for renovation. 

“Fund-raising culminated with a generous gift of $1 million from Harvey Manes, one of the   museum’s trustees. It gave us funds to complete renovation and construction on the building,” which began with preliminary work in September, Willers said.

“The construction will be very visible with lights staying on all night at the building,” he said. “Since it’s a construction site, the area will not be accessible to visitors for the sake of people’s safety.” 

Noting the sizable property on which the museum sits, Willers assured that visitors to the museum’s main building “won’t be able to hear construction.” He said: “Even members of the local community surrounding the museum probably won’t be able to hear any of the construction noise.”

There is no official date set for the building to open. 

“Whenever the weather gets nice,” Willers said.

BY MAX ZAHN

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