An opening date is set for the new Palmer Museum of Art building at Penn State.

The new 73,000-square-foot facility located at the Arboretum will open to the public on June 1, the university announced on Wednesday. Construction began in July 2021.

Nearly doubling the footprint of the museum’s former longtime home on Curtin Road, the new $85 million building will feature 20 galleries, new event and educational spaces, a museum store, cafe, sculpture path and outdoor terraces.

With a permanent collection of more than 11,000 works of art, including a renowned collection of American art, the Curtin Road museum allowed for only 3 to 4% of the collection to be displayed at any one time, university officials previously said. The new museum, designed by Allied Works and landscape architect Reed Hilderbrand, will allow for the display between 7 and 8% at a time.

In addition to a need for more space, Penn State officials have said the previous building’s aging systems pose a concern for preserving works of art, and its location on central campus makes it less accessible for guests due to a lack of nearby parking. (Parking for the new museum will be in the Lewis Katz Building lot across Bigler Road, and a bus drop-off area will be located in front of the museum.)

“The new Palmer Museum of Art will substantially boost accessibility to the University’s art collections for students, faculty, staff, our regional communities and beyond,” said Erin M. Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “The innovative design brings art, architecture and nature in dialogue with the diversity of works in the collection that span centuries and global cultures, offering each visitor an exceptional, enriching experience.” 

The design of the new museum, which will be LEED-certified, is inspired by and aims to complement the adjacent H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at the Arboretum. Interlocking outdoor pavilions are clad in local sandstone and an overhead bridge connecting the buildings two wings serves as a gateway to the gardens.

On the west side, the building’s larger wing will house the museum’s 15 permanent galleries and five dedicated to special exhibitions, as well as support spaces.

Anchoring the museum’s feature staircase, “Lupine Blue Persian Wall,” a 13-foot site-specific installation by artist Dale Chihuly, will debut with the opening of the new building. The Palmer will also unveil new acquisitions by more than a dozen artists.

The east wing will have administrative, educational and research spaces, including a dedicated area for interactive, hands-on exploration that will feature a plant-themed artwork creation activity.

“Each visitor’s artwork contributions will begin as a hand-colored plant form on paper and be brought to life within a collective, digital canvas,” according to a news release. “The resulting digital garden installation will animate, propagate and include a natural soundscape.”

The Palmer began moving out of the Curtin Road building in May. University officials have said the building, which will retain the large the bronze lion’s paws that flank its front steps, will be repurposed as a student-focused space, but have not yet announced specific plans.

About $25 million in philanthropic has been raised for the new museum. The remaining funding will come from borrowing, with debt service of up to $4 million annually will paid from the portion of the university’s Big Ten media revenue set aside for difficult-to-fund campus projects,

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