Trustees approve final plans for new Palmer Museum of Art

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Board of Trustees today (May 7) approved final plans for the construction of a new Palmer Museum of Art that will be located alongside the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens within the Arboretum at Penn State at University Park campus.

The board also authorized the expenditure of funds for the $85 million project, which is supported with more than $20 million in philanthropy. Groundbreaking for the 71,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin this summer, with a projected opening in fall 2023. Previously, the board approved the selection of Allied Works Architecture of Portland, Oregon, to design the museum.

The new museum will replace the current 50,000-square-foot Palmer Museum of Art on Curtin Road with a larger facility that features new education spaces and teaching galleries, flexible event spaces, and nearly twice the exhibition space of the current museum, allowing for expanded student, faculty and public access to Penn State’s growing collection of 10,260 works of art.

“The new museum will help to strengthen the Palmer’s academic collaborations with faculty and foster exciting student engagement opportunities through experiential learning, creative activities, and spaces designed for innovative cross-disciplinary programs,” said Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “As one of the largest art museums between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the most significant academic art museum in the state, this new facility will help to advance the Palmer as a cultural destination and scholarly resource for the University, surrounding communities, and visitors from across Pennsylvania and beyond.”

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With its location along Bigler Road across from the Lewis Katz Building, the new museum will provide improved visitor parking access and bus drop off and pick up for K-12 schools and other tour groups, while remaining accessible to Penn State students. Overall, 10,000 Penn State students currently visit the Palmer annually, including 5,000 students who actively engage with the museum through education programs, tours, lectures and curriculum integration.

Designed to complement and integrate with the Arboretum’s natural setting, the museum will be comprised of a series of interlocking pavilions clad in local stone, evoking the geology of central Pennsylvania. The design also features indoor and outdoor courtyards that will offer framed views of the Arboretum, while also presenting opportunities to partner with the Arboretum on shared programming, public events and outdoor art installations.

The design plan includes expanded workspaces for collections processing, exhibition preparation and curation, as well as spaces for teaching and research, visitor services, and administrative offices for the Palmer and Arboretum. The museum will be equipped with HVAC systems designed for art preservation and, in keeping with Penn State’s commitment to sustainability, it will be a high-performance building that meets U.S. Green Building Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.


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