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Clark Unveils Master Plan for its Campus: Will Provide for Growth of Collections, Programs While Preserving Scenic Berkshire Beauty

For Immediate Release

February 03, 2001

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute today announced details of the first phase of its master plan for the Clark campus.  It represents the beginning of a multiphase process that assures responsible stewardship of the Clark for the next fifty years and beyond.

Clark Director Michael Conforti oriented members of the Berkshire community to the features of a model of the future campus, depicting concepts of the expansion and landscape improvements.  Joining the presentation were Francis Oakley, President of the Clark and former President of Williams College; George Kennedy, Clark Trustee who heads the buildings and grounds committee and managing partner, Berkshire Capital Investors; and Donald Clinton of Cooper Robertson & Partners, New York, architectural consultants for the Clark as well as numerous museums, colleges and institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and the expansion and renovation of Lincoln Center.

"The Clark is both a museum and a research and academic center and we are blessed with a stunning natural environment," Conforti said.  "This means we must plan for our growing collections and provide enough space for our research, academic, and conservation programs while preserving our intimate character as a museum and enhancing the quality of the visitor experience, including access to a protected, improved landscape. Though not expected to increase the numbers of people coming to the Clark, the master plan, which has been several years in the making by a number of people who care greatly about what happens here, will allow us to accommodate the cultural tourists who visit during the peak summer months.  Also, by making adequate space for our research and academic programs, we will benefit the present and future participants in these programs who come to view Williamstown as a second home."

Oakley confirmed that the Clark will continue its decades-old tradition of preserving the scenic landscape around its site by engaging landscape architects and civil engineers to improve the circulation of visitors throughout the campus and enhance the natural setting.

"We are proud that our plan includes preserving the 140 acres surrounding the Clark and making it more accessible to the community for its pleasure," he said. "We are the stewards not only of our cultural treasures but of our beautiful natural treasures as well.  This has taken much thoughtful and careful planning."

The campus master plan calls for the construction of approximately 80,000 square feet of new public space, increasing the institution's total space by approximately 50%.  It is hoped that much of the new construction will be built underground, to minimize the impact on the landscape. 

The plan envisions construction of a new building on a scale compatible with the Clark's original, neoclassical marble building, as well as with the surrounding landscape and the fabric of Williamstown.  The new structure will be linked to the original building by landscaped terraces and underground passages and will include galleries for special exhibitions along with an orientation center, making it a focal point for visitors.  The plan also calls for renovations and additions to the original building and to the campus's library and administrative building, which was added in 1973.

The master plan will likely be implemented in four phases.  Phase I will include constructing new facilities for the Williamstown Art Conservation Center as well as spaces for the Clark's graduate,  public education and conference programs.  This phase will also include major re-landscaping and changes to traffic and parking.  The Clark plans to include an underground parking facility in this phase.  Phase II will entail adding new permanent collection galleries and an outside entrance to the west side of the original 1955 building, once again allowing visitors direct access to the building.  Phase III will encompass the completion of the new building (started in Phase I) by adding 7,000 to 10,000 square feet of temporary exhibition space and an additional 9,000 square feet for visitor services, including a restaurant, orientation and interpretation space, a new museum shop and other amenities.  Phase IV involves reconfiguring the 1973 building exclusively for the library, the existing auditorium and administrative offices.

Trustees and senior staff of the Clark are currently selecting both an architect and a landscape architect to implement the master plan.  The search committee has already narrowed its field of potential architects from an initial international group of 85 to a shortlist of 5.  The committee will announce its choices in summer 2001, when development of the design will begin.  The Clark anticipates that it will remain open throughout the construction period, which will start no later than spring 2004. 

Cost of the first phase, which includes the first section of the new building, underground parking garage, new surface lot, enhanced setting for the existing pond and a new half-acre pond, development of gardens and terraces over 5 acres, a bike trail, and over 2.5 miles of walking paths to link the various areas of the campus to each other and to the paths in the Stone Hill woodlands to the south, will be determined after the architect selected submits a final design of the project.  Design details and cost estimates for phases II through IV of the master plan will be determined as the plans and timetables for these phases are finalized. Later phases of the expansion are expected to be built in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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