Big Changes for the Norton Museum of Art

Enormous renovation plans are being set in motion at The Norton Museum of Art, which will close for three weeks in September to prepare for its 2015-2016 exhibition season, as well as some preliminary construction work to prepare for the major work which will begin next summer.

The first thing visitors will notice is construction work around the big, beautiful landmark, 75-year-old Banyan tree on the Museum’s west side to prepare and protect it from the coming construction. The fabulous fauna figures prominently in the design for the new entrance to the museum, with a large metal canopy shade overhang being custom designed around the tree. It will have special lighting at night and hedges along the sidewalk to further frame the tree.

Big Changes Hang in the Air for the NortonThere will be in deed, big changes for the Norton Museum of Art. Right now the main parking lot is across the street on Dixie Highway, a less than ideal situation with traffic and the entrance located way down the south side. The new entrance will be much more inviting, with less traffic, a shady canopy and a reflecting pool. “The new proposal for South Dixie involves turning it into a much narrower road, with expanded, wider sidewalks and more open plaza space”, said Dana Little, urban design director for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. This plan is in sync with what Norton officials have in mind for the museum’s main entrance renovations.

“Money for the South Dixie project hasn’t been totally secured, but local businesses have given thousands of dollars toward planning”, Little said. “Dixie is being rethought of and reinvented as a positive public space,” Little told the Palm Beach Post. “What the Norton is doing is imperative to redefining Dixie Highway.” There will most likely not be parking in front of the museum on Dixie.

Other work includes the Gilbane Building Company moving trailers into the southwest corner of the Museum parking lot across Dixie Highway, and prep work being done in the building’s administrative areas. Open during construction, the transformation will extend the landmark Dixie Drive pavilions, while the masterplan also involves the addition of new public amenities within a garden setting. The project also includes two new galleries with modern environmental systems, a sculpture gallery and a new Education Center.

Big Changes Hang in the Air for the Norton

“The Education Center alone will be gaining triple the amount of space they have now,” adds Scott Bernarde, Director of Communications. “The long-term masterplan will add two new wings to the galleries to the east of the museum and also includes a new entrance, lofted by three new double-height pavilions joined with the re-worked existing wing by a shared palette of white stone, while a metal roof canopy floats above the pavilions.”

The new pavilions will house a modern 200-seat auditorium, event space in addition to a Grand Hall, a new museum shop and a new restaurant with al-fresco garden seating. Right now the café is indoors back behind the atrium.

All in all the plan contains a 50,000-square-foot addition of program space, meeting rooms, a new entrance space with 44-foot high ceilings, and another 15,000 square feet for galleries and supporting operations. The museum would also renovate 60,000 square feet of existing space.

It’s a huge undertaking and is all expected to be completed by 2018. “The construction of the museum is highly technical and challenging,” Tim Hensey VP of Gilbane Building, said in a news release. “The team we have dedicated to this project has exceptional depth of experience in dealing with the complex issues of constructing this facility.” The plan was designed by architecture firm Foster + Partners. Another part of the plan includes renovating some nearby houses, to integrate them into the museum campus.
“The museum sits in the middle of some of the most intact historic districts in the city,” said Beth Dowdle, the Norton’s community liaison for the renovation.

The six structures in the adjacent Mango Promenade Historic District date to the 1920s. Dowdle said the museum is considering using the space to house visiting artists in a residency program.

Bigger and higher is the trend in new museums across the world, so the Norton’s plans are right on schedule. The new Whitney Museum in New York City expanded in a grand way this past Spring, allowing them more space for big installations, outdoor sculpture exhibits and lots of room to show off and unearth the permanent collection. The Nortons expansion will allow them to nab some of the major touring shows and also to unearth more of the gems hidden away in the collection archives, such as the recent popular Black Panthers photo exhibit. The last expansion was back in 2003 when the museum spent $20 million to add a 45,000-square-foot, three-story wing.

The Norton, in West Palm Beach since 1941 and founded by Chicago industrialist Ralph Norton’s gift of over 100 works of art, is a world-class art museum, ready to get even better, whose permanent collections include the work of Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

The fall schedule includes the highly anticipated U.S. debut of This Place: Israel Through Photography’s Lens; and the timely photography exhibition by Mary Ellen Mark: Streetwise Revisited , her series that follows a fiercely independent group of homeless and troubled youth. The acclaimed photographer passed away in May 2015. A sure to be blockbuster exhibition featuring the paintings of pioneering feminist Georgia O’Keeffe and her contemporaries is also on the schedule. The official closing dates are Sept. 7 through Sept. 25, 2015.

The Norton re-opens on Saturday, Sept. 26 with its Tenth Annual Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival) in honor of its world-class collection of Chinese art. One of China’s most cherished holidays, Moon Festival is also one of the Norton’s most popular annual, family events. The Festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. and includes a performance by renowned Chinese musician Liu Fang, an array of activities, tours, workshops, and talks throughout the day, as well as the serving of tea and mooncakes, the traditional treat for this second most popular holiday in China.

Visit the Norton Museum of Art website for updates and events:

Big Changes for the Norton Museum of Art. Enormous Renovation Plans are Being Set in Motion at the Norton Museum of Art, Expected to Be Completed by 2018.

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