Arboretum Flower

Flowers blossom at the Arboretum at Penn State.

For years, The Arboretum at Penn State has been known by many for its flowers, trees, shrubs and more.

Soon, though, the center's features will also branch out into art.

At the beginning of May, Penn State announced its plans to construct the new University Art Museum in the Arboretum, replacing the Palmer Museum of Art located on Curtin Road.

With construction set to begin in late 2020, the Arboretum is planning for the future — with both construction and the new museum in mind.

Shari Edelson, the Arboretum's director of horticulture and curator, said the exact location of the 68,000 to 73,000 square-foot building has yet to be determined. However, it will be located somewhere in the Bigler Road corridor, set back behind the Marsh Meadow.

Edelson said concept design of the building will take place over the next three months. She added that because most of the project site is currently within a large field, gardens will be planted around the museum's perimeter.

Though the construction of a projected $71.1 million project may seem jarring, Edelson said the Arboretum will manage the construction process so visitors can still access the gardens.

"Because the new building will be next to the existing gardens but not 'in' them, visitors will still be able to enjoy the vast majority of the Arboretum during construction," Edelson said via email.

Unlike Palmer, the new museum will be freestanding. Penn State's 9,300-object collection will soon be on display among honey bees and peonies.

Kim Steiner, the Arboretum's director, said the addition of the museum fits well with the Arboretum's mission and purpose.

"Since the beginning, part of our ambition for the Arboretum has been to make it a venue for the arts," Steiner said via email. "Gardens are places of beauty as well as learning and discovery, and I think it is wonderful to expand on the theme of beauty by bringing in the art museum."

Steiner said that because the Arboretum is a highly-visited destination in the State College area, she expects traffic will increase at the Arboretum as the museum boosts popularity.

Erin Coe, the director of the Palmer Museum of Art, said the new museum's location off of Park Avenue will be more visitor-accessible, providing space for parking and other amenities not available at the Palmer Museum of Art's location.

The new museum will also house increased space for cross-disciplinary programs and other activities to "encourage critical thinking, inspire curiosity and creativity, and foster respect for diverse cultures and points of view," according to Coe.

"The new art museum will expand the museum’s current mission to serve as a cultural and scholarly resource for the university and audiences from Pennsylvania, the nation and the world by greatly increasing the amount of gallery space by as much as 50%," Coe said via email.

Coe also said the museum will specifically benefit students, as it will be used as a teaching space, educational resource and creative hub. She said both Penn State students and K-12 students will be able to learn about the arts through the museum.

The facility will feature an expanded gallery space, Coe said, and increase the works on view to the public from 4% to 6-7%.

"The Palmer Museum of Art has outgrown its existing building," Coe said. "This larger, modern facility would allow a larger percentage of the works in its permanent collection to be made available for public viewing."

Penn State's Board of Trustees will approve the complete details of the museum. The board approved the Allied Works as architect of the new building. Allied Works has designed buildings with similar purposes, such as the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.

As the Arboretum plans to add this new museum, it looks to other future extensions, as well. Within the next year and a half, Steiner said the Arboretum plans to add 3.25 acres of gardens.

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