NEW BEDFORD – The New Bedford Art Museum / Works of Art! (NBAM) is getting closer to its expansion and renovation plans.
“When you put the visuals in there and put the narrative in there, everyone is so excited about it,” said Ashely Occhino, executive director of NBAM after the museum unveiled the latest architectural renderings at an event. Friday.
The museum‘s plan is to renovate all three floors of its building at 608 Pleasant Street. Occhino said the main goal will be to double the size of the gallery and rebuild the educational space. NBAM’s plans also include improving safety and environmental controls.
Currently, the city’s Housing and Community Development office is located on the second floor of the building. Mayor Jon Mitchell has confirmed his intention to move the department to another office space so that the museum can occupy the entire building.
Additionally, Occhino says accessibility will be a major part of upgrades. New disabled-accessible bathrooms and larger elevators will allow any guest to have full access to the museum.
Destination: NBAM – New Bedford Art Museum expansion plan goes step by step
“The museum can truly be a progressive institution,” Occhino added. “We need a nice, tall and wide lift for a chair user. So I can accommodate several people in there.
The museum is working with Boston-based architectural firm Machado Silvetti on the proposal.
Although Occhino did not give details on the cost of the proposal or how much has already been raised, she said, the museum is looking to fund the project with 50% of the funds coming from public sources.
Funding sources include the Massachusetts Cultural Council Cultural Facilities Fund, New Bedford Community Preservation Act funds, American Rescue Plan Act funds, historic tax credits and bonding, and “work alongside government at municipal, state and federal levels, ”she added in an email response.
Build a destination attraction
The art museum was identified in Mitchell’s 200-page Arts & Culture plan published in 2018 as a cultural development opportunity for the city.
Occhino says they saw the arts and culture plan as a road map. “It’s kind of where all of these building blocks have been put in place, and we’re just continuing to build on that. “
The goal of NBAM is to become a destination museum for the region and the state, she added.
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During a reception last Friday, the art museum administration architect Machado Silvetti Austin Ward and Mitchell spoke to museum staff, administrators, committee members and art supporters about the late designs.
“I think with everything that’s happened over the last 18-19 months it’s nice to have more exciting times for us where people can really rally around us,” Occhino said. .
“There was just a good buzz in the room.”
Short-term projects for the museum
As for the timeline, Occhino says they don’t have a solid answer. “It’s about taking our concept and tweaking, tweaking, tweaking, and then at the end of the day you have the building plans that you pass on to a contractor,” she said.
“There is no better opportunity than now.”
In the meantime, the museum has already started making small improvements such as adding banners to the exterior of the building to be more visible to tourists.
Since May, the museum has presented “Uncommon Threads: The Work of Ruth E. Carter,” a solo exhibition celebrating the Academy Award-winning Massachusetts costume designer who has a 30-year career in Hollywood.
Carter has designed costumes for films such as “Black Panther”, “Malcom X” and “Selma”. The exhibition ends on November 14.
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In December, NBAM will present a “Members’ Exhibition” showcasing works of art from across the region such as paintings, drawings, mixed media, photographs, ceramics and more.
Occhino is also hoping that with the renovations, it will attract better exhibits, which will lead to more solid programming to ultimately help improve the city’s residents.
“Ultimately, this project will really transform culture and art in New Bedford,” Occhino said. “There are so many positive reasons for this to happen.
“Both for the city and the building itself. “
Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.