Pennsylvania State University’s board of trustees on Friday approved final plans for an $85 million art museum to replace an aging facility and house its growing collection.
University officials believe the new museum would be the largest in square footage and size of collection between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“This new facility will help to advance the [museum] as a cultural destination and scholarly resource for the University, surrounding communities, and visitors from across Pennsylvania and beyond,” Erin Coe, museum director, said in a statement.
Construction is slated to begin this summer, with a projected opening in fall 2023.
» READ MORE: Penn State proposes new art museum
President Eric Barron first proposed the museum two years ago after the university received two large collections and the promise of more donations. The board at that time hired an architect to design the museum.
Under the plans approved by the majority of the board, the new 71,000-square-foot facility will be constructed alongside the botanic gardens at the university’s arboretum. It will increase the size of the museum by more than 40%, adding more space for exhibition, collections, and education as well as visitor services and administrative offices for the museum and the arboretum.
Penn State’s current museum opened in 1972 and was expanded and renamed the Palmer Museum of Art in 1993 in recognition of a gift from donors. At that time, the collection had about 3,500 pieces. Today, it has more than 10,000 pieces, according to the university.
But only 3% to 4% of those are in public view, according to a university document describing the new project. The new building would allow 7% to 8% of the pieces to be displayed.
The current building has suffered water damage and has an aging heating and air-conditioning system that makes preservation more difficult, the university said.
Some members of the board, including Ted Brown, voted no on the project. Brown noted a survey that found about a third of Penn State students reported “food insecurity,” more at the Abington and Altoona campuses. Given those numbers, Brown said it was not the time to approve a new museum.
More than $20 million of the funding for the project, or about one-quarter, comes from fund-raising, the university said.
About 10,000 Penn State students visit the museum each year.