Community turns out to see newly renovated North Wing of the Springfield Museum of Art

The design of the newly renovated wing creates more usable space and connects the museum to its setting in Cliff Park.
The Springfield Museum of Art’s newly renovated North Wing will provide more usable space for the community to gather while also allowing visitors to better connect to the park setting that surrounds it.

The decision to reduce the size of the building by 4,000 square feet, or 30 percent, “was essentially to right-size the building,” says Jessimi Jones, the museum’s executive director.

In planning for the renovation, the museum realized that it didn’t need more square feet, but instead more usable space. So instead of growing the building, the board made the pragmatic decision to rethink the space and create places better suited for education, public events, and potential rentals, Jones says. The smaller size also results in less funds needed to heat, cool, and maintain the building.

“It provided us with facilities that were much needed,” she says.

The renovation, which was completed in less than 10 months, was the final phase in a three-part, $7 million “Art invites …” comprehensive campaign. Previous phases included a new roof for the facility and the replacement of the HVAC system. Improvements like these resulted in a 45 percent reduction in utility use and $50,000 in savings each year – money which can instead be used for activities such as exhibitions, education programs, and the care of the collection.
Visitors to the grand opening event saw not only the new North Wing but also the talents of other arts organizations throughout the community.
The campaign also included an effort to build the museum’s endowment in order to create the revenue that allows the museum, located at 107 Cliff Park Road, to “keep the lights on and the doors open,” Jones says.

The North Wing was originally constructed in 1967 and added onto in 1973. The new North Wing also has intentional touches to unify it with the rest of the building, such as matching paint, windows, and even bricks. In addition, it was designed to incorporate the site’s setting in Cliff Park.

“We made the decision to include glass that looks out to the park in as many spaces as possible,” Jones says.

The museum also has introduced a new logo, signage, and branding, in collaboration with the Springfield-based Hucklebuck Design StudioArt museums can be seen as intimidating for some visitors, but parks are much less so, she says. The design connects the two, including a new wall of windows that faces a cliff.

“That isn’t something you can manufacture for the site you are on,” she says.

Amy Korpieski, a museum educator, called the museum in the park “a community resource within a community resource” and noted the ability to both bring the outdoors in and the indoors out throughout the museum’s space. 

The new space is well suited to the museum’s strong programming, such as the free “Come Find Art” events that take place at the museum the second Sunday of each month, Korpieski says. Visitors are invited to participate in hands-on art activities related to what they have viewed in the gallery for these events.

The space will be great for the museum’s large events, as well as for the programs that the museum offers in partnership with organizations for students, those with developmental disabilities, and others.

“The new spaces give room for things to be happening simultaneously,” she says.

Museums are a community resource like a library or park, says Korpieski, but many don’t see them that way. And there isn’t a cost barrier to visit. The “Come Find Art” events are free and the “Museums for All” program offers free admission for residents who receive SNAP food assistance.

“Any new construction brings new awareness,” she says.

In the galleries of the Springfield Museum of Art.That awareness was on display last Saturday when the museum held a public grand opening celebration that Jones says was attended by more than 550 people. Activities occurred in the new studios, the museum’s partnerships were highlighted, and visitors saw not only the new North Wing but also the talents of other arts organizations throughout the community.

The day was also the 12th anniversary of the museum having become a Smithsonian Affiliate art museum – the only one in Ohio. Among other benefits, the distinction allows the museum to borrow art from the collections of the Smithsonian and provides professional development and program support to the museum.

The museum also has introduced a new logo, signage, and branding, in collaboration with the Springfield-based Hucklebuck Design Studio. The refresh resulted in a design that was “very simple and elegant so the artwork could shine,” Jones says. 

Jones, who became executive director of the museum in 2020, says the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the eagerness of local residents to participate in the arts and culture of the community.

The museum also has introduced a new logo, signage, and branding, in collaboration with the Springfield-based Hucklebuck Design Studio“I would say it goes beyond that – it’s not just a desire, but a need,” she says, noting that this weekend’s Art Noire event featuring Black creatives, which will be hosted at the museum, is an example of that.

It was both a joyful and humbling experience to see so many people celebrate the new space during Saturday’s celebration, Jones says, and it was also a reminder of the responsibility the museum holds to be a steward of art within the community. While the museum has crossed one finish line, it is also a catalyst to continue the museum’s exhibits and educational programs.

“If we’re doing this right, the community responds,” she says.
The community turned out to see the renovation to the museum's North Wing.

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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.