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Museum renovations get $250K lift

Posted: 2/22/14

By Ray Lamont, Editor, Gloucester Daily Times - The arrival of $250,000 through a grant from the state’s nonprofit MassDevelopment partnership has provided a significant boost to the $3 million, eight-month renovation project aimed at upgrading the historic Cape Ann Museum. Link to the full article here.

The money, actually assured from MassDevelopment in the summer of 2012 but just now released, helps fund what remains a core of the museum project — the installation of a new heating and climate-control systems.

“We applied for it a couple of years ago, but you have a couple of years to actually use the funds,” Ronda Faloon, the museum’s executive director, said Friday. “So it’s just at the right time (in the project) where we can start spending the money now.

“It’s always difficult to get funding for facilities, but things get old and need to be replaced,” she said of the grant. “It’s not always the most exciting part of the project, but it’s the most necessary.”

The installation of the HVAC vents and other parts of the system began last week, and the project is on track to be completed by the end of May, Faloon said. That jives with initial plans to have the museum, which shut down for the project Oct. 1, to fully reopen in mid-summer.

“We had always been hoping to capture some of the summer visitors,” said Faloon, noting that the museum has continued to present and host specific programs during the renovation work.

In addition to replacing its aging climate systems, the museum is also using the grant money to install fire prevention systems and to upgrade lighting in its galleries and elsewhere.

“The Cape Ann Museum preserves and celebrates the vibrant history and culture of a unique port that has inspired artists for centuries,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “We are pleased to provide this grant to help the museum make needed facility improvements as it highlights the rich history of Cape Ann and honors its artists.”

Founded in 1873, the museum’s collections are designed to represent the history of the region: its people, its industries — and especially its arts and culture. The museum’s facilities include 13 galleries, a library and historical archives, an auditorium, children’s activity center, sculpture gardens and historic homes.

The museum’s fine art collection includes the largest grouping of works by native son and renowned marine artist Fitz Henry Lane, as well as work by other prominent painters and sculptors who lived on, visited, or were inspired by Cape Ann.

The museum also collects and regularly showcases the work of contemporary Cape Ann artists, while the permanent collection includes fine and decorative arts and artifacts from the major industries of the area, notably the fisheries and granite quarrying.

“The Cape Ann Museum is honored to be a recipient of the Cultural Facilities Fund grant and is grateful to MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for their support,” Faloon said in a prepared statement. “We have been fortunate to be able to use this grant to leverage additional support for our projects.”

The entire $3 million renovation project is part of a larger $5 million capital campaign, in which $1 million will be for a museum endowment and another $1 million will go to several other initiatives — including seed money for an acquisition fund and other projects.

While much of the renovation work will be hidden within the museum’s interior infrastructure, the work will also include architectural enhancements such as new flooring, ceilings and finishes.

Also, the Fitz Henry Lane, Davis and Folly Cove Designers galleries will be renovated, with two new galleries to be created by reconfiguring existing space.

One will be the Central Gallery, which will serve as the educational hub and a gathering place where visitors can be introduced to the museum collections.

The other will be the Fresnel Lens Gallery, which will house the historic 10-foot, 1-ton First Order Fresnel Lens. The lens once graced one of the twin lighthouse towers on Rockport’s Thacher Island when it was installed on the island in 1861.

MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council administer the Cultural Facilities Fund, an initiative of the Commonwealth to increase public and private investment in cultural facilities throughout the state. Created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2006, the fund has awarded more than $55 million in grants to cultural organizations across Massachusetts.