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Queens Chronicle

SculptureCenter breaks ground on expansion project

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Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:33 am, Thu Apr 11, 2013.

The SculptureCenter further cemented its place in Long Island City with Tuesday’s groundbreaking of its new lobby and outdoor exhibition space.

“This furthers our commitment to the neighborhood and shows that we really are here for the long haul,” Executive Director and Chief Curator Mary Ceruti said.

The expansion at 44-19 Purves St. to be completed in fall 2014 includes a new 2,000-square-foot one-story entrance to provide ticketing, orientation and visitor services such as a coatroom, restrooms and seating area.

“We want to thank people for making the journey to Queens,” Associate Director Frederick Janka said.

Plans designed by Andrew Berman — the architect of the Center for Architecture and LIC’s MoMA PS1 — also add an elevator and a stairway to the lower-level galleries, bringing the non-handicapped-accessible building up to standards and a 1,500-square-foot enclosed courtyard, as well as upgrades to electrical and mechanical systems and office and storage space.

The design melds with the existing steel- and-brick structure while creating a stronger street presence introducing plywood and corrosion-retardent Corten steel to the aesthetic.

The initial renovation a decade ago was designed by artist Maya Lin with the intention to expand in the future, according to a SculptureCenter release.

The construction is part of a $6 million Building SculptureCenter Capital Campaign. More than half of the $6 million was funded with city gifts and grants and by the board of trustees. Borough President Helen Marshall allocated $2 million; Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) allocated $125,000. The gallery is also supported by its board of trustees and the Council’s cultural affairs and libraries committee, chaired by Van Bramer.

Other aspects of the project, which hasn’t quite been funded, according to Janka, include trying to add a cooling system to the main building — “essentially a brick box that gets really hot [in the summer],” he said — and a strategic audience development project. The gallery hosts several artists a year as well as children’s and adult’s workshops, and last year it hosted the LIC Block Party, drawing about 2,000 people despite a torrential downpour.

Janka sees the gallery as an important cultural destination in LIC on a street booming with a built-in audience. Right next door on Purves Street is a feng shui condominium and a 14-story-residential building at the end of the block where Purves meets Jackson Avenue. Across the avenue there’s an even larger condominium by Rockrose Development nearing completion.

“It’s no longer a desolate industrial neighborhood but a burgeoning cultural district,” Janka said. “We are a little gap tooth in the skyline, but we still have our air rights.”

The plan aims to engage the LIC community as well as grab its old Manhattan audience — the sculpture gallery moved to its converted trolley repair shop building in 2001 from the Lower East Side — and art viewers from all over.

“Our culture is an anchor and you have been a great anchor for Purves Street,” Van Bramer said.

Welcome to the discussion.