Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art studying expansion

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Officials with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City are planning a lengthy push to persuade donors, members and the public that the cultural institution needs to expand.
The museum currently can exhibit only about 6 percent of 39,000 pieces in its collection, which is normal for museums that perpetually rotate works from storage. The museum is lacking office and storage space, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/2bsZ4xT ). For example, office supplies fill third-floor display cases that used to hold art and some employees work in a nearby house.
“We have offices in galleries that should be devoted to art,” said Mark Zimmerman, the museum’s director of administration.
So museum officials want to finish proposals in a 1999 strategic plan, which added space for special exhibitions, collections, education, parking and other programs. But the need for offices for about 300 employees and for non-art storage has not been addressed.
“It’s not conducive for the way we need to interact every day,” said museum director and CEO Julián Zugazagoitia. “It’s not efficient.”
In the short term, museum offices are likely to expand into large houses nearby that the institution already owns although no final decisions have been made.
Zugazagoitia noted it took 10 years of planning and five years of implementation to open the Bloch addition south of the original building and the conversation about the latest plans is in its early stages.
At a “community conversation” attended by about 250 people Wednesday, Zugazagoitia and his colleagues said they are working hard to reuse properties the museum already owns and they won’t do anything to hinder a larger cultural arts district proposal extending east from the Country Club Plaza.
And they won’t revisit an effort in 2008-2009 to convert the former Rockhill Tennis Club for office space, which prompted strong opposition and a city ordinance barring the property from being used for anything other than single-family homes or public park space.
Greg Maday, a museum trustee and chairman of its campus and community committee, said the planning process is not a land grab but is designed to “define the campus footprint” and “define best use for our properties.”
While the nearby houses will be used for office space in the near future, the long-term goal could be a new building to allow employees to work more closely together with updated technology.
By 2020, the museum wants at least 4,000 more square feet of office space, 5,000 more square feet of gallery space and 8,000 more square feet of art storage space. But to compete with peer museums, the Nelson would need another 4,000 square feet of art conservation space, 14,000 more square feet of featured exhibition space and 4,000 more square feet of education space excluding its library. In all, the Nelson says it currently operates with about 130,000 square feet less space than its peers.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com