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Showcase for the Museum Will Anchor “Cultural Gateway” to Harlem.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced plans to build a major new facility on Fifth Avenue for the Museum for African Art, the only independent museum in the United States dedicated solely to African art. The Museum, to be located at the corner of 110th Street, will extend the City’s storied Museum Mile and create a “cultural gateway” to Harlem, generating substantial economic activity for the area. The City has committed $12 million toward the construction of the Museum, which is being designed by the renowned firm of Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President Robert C. Lieber, Executive Director of the Museum for African Art Elsie McCabe, Co-Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees and President of The Rockefeller Brothers Investment Fund Jon Green, and Guggenheim Chairman William Mack also attended the announcement at the Guggenheim Museum, a major art institution on Museum Mile.
“I can’t think of a better time to have this announcement than now – at the beginning of Black History Month,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “For more than 20 years the Museum for African Art has developed enriching educational programs and exhibitions throughout the City, providing a window into African art and culture which has a profound impact on New York City. Now at last, the Museum will have an extraordinary new venue on Museum Mile that will allow it to vastly expand its reach and service to New Yorkers and visitors from around the world. This stunning new facility will also serve as a new cultural gateway to Harlem.”
“A new home on Museum Mile will allow the Museum for African Art to flourish and create a dynamic new cultural destination for the Harlem community,” said Commissioner Levin. “Non-profit cultural organizations invigorate neighborhoods throughout the City. By investing in the Museum for African Art, this Administration is helping to ensure that the Museum can fulfill its public mission and make an extraordinary contribution to Harlem and the entire City.”
“The Museum for African Art’s expansion will play a vital role both in the eminence of New York City as a center of diverse world-class institutions, and in the tremendous renaissance underway in Harlem today,” said EDC President Lieber. “I’m pleased EDC was able to help the Museum make the new facility a reality, and I know it will thrive in this location for years to come.”
Since its founding in 1984, the Museum for African Art has resided in rented space around the City and is currently operating in Long Island City, presenting off-site exhibitions and programming. Earlier this year, EDC negotiated the sale of four parcels of land located between East 109th and 110th Streets to a partnership between the Museum, Sydney Fetner Associates and Brickman Associates. The City-owned parcels of land together with a site already owned by the Museum will allow for the creation of the new museum facility and residential building. The project is expected to generate approximately 150 full-time equivalent jobs and 240 construction jobs. The Sidney Fetner/Brickman joint venture will also contribute $1 million to the City’s Department of Housing and Preservation for the promotion of the City’s affordable housing initiatives. As part of the Administration’s efforts to revitalize Upper Manhattan, the Museum will serve as an important “cultural gateway” to Harlem, attracting tourists and generating economic activity for the community.
The new building on Fifth Avenue will provide the Museum with 85,000 square feet, which includes state-of-the-art exhibition galleries, an interactive education center, a theater, a café/restaurant, an expanded gift shop devoted to African design, and climate controlled art storage and conservation facilities. The centerpiece of the Museum’s education center will recreate African villages that will virtually transport children across the sea to a continent, a culture and history they may not have the opportunity to experience first hand. The development will also include a residential tower with 116 new units of housing financed by a private developer.
“Like many African peoples, the Museum for African Art has been nomadic during its 22 year history. During this time we have always seen ourselves as an institution that built bridges between cultures and people,” said Executive Director Elsie McCabe from the Museum of African Art. “The intersection of Museum Mile and the cultural crossroads of Harlem’s diverse communities is the perfect location for the Museum’s permanent home. With the invaluable support of the City, we now have a location that furthers this goal as we celebrate the beauty and majesty of African art and culture.”
With a new home on Museum Mile, the Museum can present a permanent collection of the finest examples of African art, an expanded calendar of enriching visual and performing arts workshops, performances, and events, and expanded educational and community outreach programs. Construction of the Museum is expected to begin in the summer of 2007, with a completion date slated for late 2009.
About the Museum for African Art
For 22 years, The Museum for African Art has been dedicated to presenting cutting edge exhibitions and scholarship designed to both foster the appreciation and understanding of African art and highlight its dynamic impact on global culture. From spectacular ancient masterpieces to new works by the most challenging and innovative contemporary artists, the Museum for African Art has a global reputation for consistently presenting the best of art from both Africa and the Diaspora. The Museum is committed to sharing its passion for the arts with the communities it serves through touring its exhibitions around the world, supporting a wide variety of educational initiatives, and advancing scholarship in related fields. The Museum for African Art is one of the world’s pre-eminent arts institutions, and its decision to make its permanent home on Museum Mile will help make New York City the nexus of scholarship in the field of African Art.