First MoMA, now SculptureCenter. The latest art institution moving to Queens began construction on its new Long Island City facility last month.
SculptureCenter, a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of experimentation and excellence in contemporary sculpture, purchased a former trolley repair shop at 44-19 Purves Street last year in order to refashion the building into its new headquarters.
The new facility will provide approximately 6,000 square feet of exhibition space, studios for visiting artists, a research library devoted to the study of sculpture, and 3,000 square feet of enclosed outdoor space. The center will be a significant upgrade from the previous facility, which has only 1,000 square feet of exhibition space.
“It was really a combination of the space and the accessibility to Brooklyn and Manhattan that had us looking at Long Island City for the move,” said president Mary Ceruti. “Plus, the cost was right.”
The repair shop, which was built in 1908, will get its new design from acclaimed architect, Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The renovations began on July 15th and are expected to be completed by the time the new location opens to the public on December 13th. The project will cost $500,000 which is funded by the sale of the organization’s old building on the Upper East Side.
“The larger, more flexible facility will allow artists to engage in a far more comprehensive process than was previously available and present a broader scope of work by local, national and international artists,” Ceruti said. “It will also enable SculptureCenter to become a true resource for the field through exhibitions, the library and a publishing program.”
SculptureCenter is the latest organization that has made its way to Long Island City, which, once envisioned as a hub for businesses, has become a mecca for the arts. Ceruti, however, is not awed by the larger institutions that are soon to be SculptureCenter’s neighbors.
“Each institution in Long Island City focuses on a different part of the arts process,” Ceruti said. “We know that our focus is on unrecognized artists in contemporary sculpture. You won’t see anyone world-famous at our building.”
She expects SculptureCenter attendance to triple from 6,000 to 18,000 within its first year after relocation.
SculptureCenter is sure to be revitalized by the move, but the surrounding community will benefit as well, according to Dan Miner, director of business services for the Long Island City Business Development Corporation.
“Every additional attraction for tourists and visitors will bring people to the area,” he said. “They are certainly likely to spend money on local businesses. We are very pleased that they will be joining our established and newly-arriving arts institutions.”
The organization was formed in 1928 as “The Clay Club,” by Dorothea Denslow before it was renamed as the SculptureCenter in 1944 and moved to a carriage house on 69th Street in Manhattan. It was there that it began its work supporting sculpture.
Since 1987, SculptureCenter has offered an artist-in-residence program that provides emerging artists with the rare opportunity to develop a new work in an exhibition space over an extended period of time.
Today, SculptureCenter presents exhibitions and other public programs that address the diverse range of work being done. It also provides a context for that work in terms of the history and future of sculpture.
“We are definitely an organization that has been growing in leaps and bounds,” Ceruti said. “What we have started and are hoping to accomplish is to become a hub for people who are interested in contemporary sculpture. Sculpture is truly an elastic field. Our role is not to define sculpture, but to help explore the breadth of the artform.”