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Springfield Art Museum unveils ambitious renovation plan

by Associated Press | October 14, 2018 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated October 14, 2018 at 10:27 a.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - If all goes as planned, the Springfield Art Museum could one day be a multi-story structure with floor-to-ceiling windows, a meandering stream outside, walking and biking trails and more space.

Art Museum Director Nick Nelson presented the vision for the museum's transformation into an "incredible, world-class art museum" to City Council on Tuesday.

The Kansas City-based architecture firm BNIM has been working with museum officials for most of the year to develop the master plan for the museum, which is noting its 90th anniversary this year, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Nelson said the project would cost about $17 million if it's completed all at once. The museum board is considering dividing construction into three phases, which would increase the cost to about $20 million.

After the renovation, the museum would continue to offer free admission to the public, he said.

Museum officials sought community input on the project and people mentioned they wanted the museum to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, to have co-working spaces, to offer artist studios and to be eye-catching, Nelson said.

The plan incorporates a winding creek, gardens, tennis courts and the LINK bike route, he said.

"The ingredients have all been here; they just haven't been put together," Nelson said.

The new museum will feature a dramatic roof line and glass walls that will promote the idea that "what goes on in the museum is just as exciting as something that happens outside the museum," Nelson said.

The building's floor plan will be overhauled to address several problems and to respond to growth in visitors and events, Nelson said.

The building's design has several "dead ends" on the east side, hampering circulation, and the education wing, which was built in 1958 needs to have more communal art studios, a space for all-ages hands-on learning and the flexibility to host different activities and community events, he said.

Other improvements would be an area for indoor and outdoor events, upgrades to the auditorium and improvements to the galleries.

Nelson said a construction timeline depends on when funding is available and the museum is looking for possible funding sources.

"Springfield has many best kept secrets, and the art museum is one of them," said Mayor Ken McClure, who said the proposal fits well with council's goal of making the city attractive to new businesses and young professionals.

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