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Johnson Museum to celebrate groundbreaking for new wing, May 17

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell will celebrate groundbreaking for its $20 million, 16,000-square-foot addition May 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. The free public event, which also recognizes the museum's 35th anniversary, will feature a concert by the Burns Sisters, art activities and refreshments.

"The mission of the new wing is to serve the collection and the public, allowing our visitors to use more of the collection more intimately and in new ways," said Frank Robinson, the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Johnson Museum.

The new wing marks the first expansion of the 61,000-square-foot, I.M. Pei-designed museum since its opening in 1973. It will house a 150-seat lecture room, a workshop studio, new galleries, art storage and office space. Renovations to the existing building will create additional exhibition space in the fifth-floor Asian art galleries and reconfigure the public floor to include a study center with open storage, a photographic study room and a seminar room.

"We're excited that we'll be able to provide greater access to the collection for the public through the open storage study center, which will feature several hundred works of African, pre-Columbian, Asian and decorative arts," said Cathy Klimaszewski, associate museum director and the Harriett Ames Charitable Trust Curator of Education at Cornell. "Over the past decade our educational programming has increased dramatically, and we look forward to using these new spaces to better serve our growing audience on campus and from the community."

The new structure was designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and the original architect-in-charge, John Sullivan '62. Its concept is based on Pei's design for an underground extension to the north.

About $19 million has been raised to date. The museum has been awarded challenge grants for the project by the Kresge Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, whose chair, Bruce Cole, noted in his 2006 award letter, "[Evaluators] praised the museum's programming overall. The new wing was deemed a much-needed and imaginative response to the academic demands on the museum, and is appropriately adapted to the museum's landmark building."

A fall 2010 opening is planned, pending final municipal approval.

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