Storm King Art Center, the 500-acre art mecca located in the Hudson Valley, announced this week that they are set to undergo a $45 million expansion and redesign. Plans include a completely revamped entrance that includes new parking facilities and expanded space for art, construction of a nearly 20,000 square foot building where art can be conserved and maintained on site, and a shift in how the museum approaches environmental sustainability.
The project is set to break ground later this year, and to be finished by 2024. And, according to Amy Weisser, Storm King's deputy director of strategic planning and projects, it won't interfere with or disrupt anyone from visiting in the meantime.
"We are thinking about how our visitors enter and how they begin to experience Storm King," Weisser told Gothamist. "We're thinking about how we serve our artists. And [we want to show] that these museum buildings can allow the experiences to happen and facilitate that without calling attention to themselves, because at Storm King what we're all about is the people, the art, and the landscape."
Weisser says the plan has been in the works for over a decade, but the pandemic sharpened understanding of what needed to be done immediately to improve the visitor experience — and what didn't need to be added.
"When you come to Storm King, you come dressed for beautiful weather, for a hot day, for a cold day, so we don't necessarily need to build a facility to welcome you inside," Weisser said. "If we're going to build [anything], these facilities can interact with the outdoors — they may provide more shade or a modest amount of heating — but they don't need to be fully enclosed buildings, because we are an outdoor museum. And one of the things that does is allow us to build much more efficiently."
Much of this planning is spurred by the museum experiencing an explosion in popularity. In 2012, Storm King had about 80,000 visitors; in 2021 it had just under 222,000, and projections indicate about 239,000 visitors this year.
To accommodate the increase in attendance, Storm King has had to add more and more disparate parking lots on its main campus. But now, unused land across the street from the entrance will be taken over and turned into a dedicated parking facility that can fit 580 cars, with more space for public transportation drop-off spots and electric car charging stations. That will then lead to a 4,700 square foot outdoor lobby and welcome center, which has a ticketing pavilion, eight bathrooms, 122 visitor lockers, and more.
"When you're coming to Storm King, likely you've taken a long drive; immediately you might need a restroom or a garbage pail or some kind of just very functional thing," Weisser said. "We can provide them to you, and then after you've taken care of that need, you can get oriented there."
She added that visitors will be greeted and given maps. "One way that we've really been talking about it is it's a much more accessible experience, particularly for people who may not be as familiar with art museums, or it may be their first visit to Storm King," she said.
In addition, 4.5 acres of former parking lots will be converted to landscape for art and programming, and more than 650 new trees of 20 different species will be planted.
Storm King currently has an extensive conservation and fabrication program for maintaining the art it displays, but lacks a dedicated facility. Those tasks mostly were done in an unheated tram garage in the middle of the winter, which Weisser admits has not been an ideal situation for the artists or for the staff.
To remedy that, there will be a new 19,375 square foot Conservation, Fabrication and Maintenance Building, located on the far south side of the space. It will include a 7,200 square foot flexible workspace, a wood shop, a paint booth, and more. This will prove particularly helpful for the Outlooks series, which has showcased the work of emerging and midcareer artists since 2013.
The new building will allow Storm King to "conserve a sculpture, maintain a sculpture, maintain a tram, fabricate a new work. In that space that we have there, we are now able to just be more thoughtful in the way we work with our artists and allow our artists the space to explore more, be less expedient."
Weisser says envisioning the project was guided by sustainability principles: keep everything all-electric to help achieve carbon neutrality; encourage more ride share, public transportation, and electric car use by creating more room for them in the parking lot; use only sustainable and durable material for the new facilities; and build only what is necessary by embracing the outdoor nature of the museum — for example, using trees and ceiling fans rather than air conditioning to cool spaces where it's possible.
Ideally, she hopes the new spaces "will feel like they were always there, they will feel so intuitive."
Storm King's architectural partners on the redesign include heneghan peng architects, from Dublin; New York-based WXY architecture + urban design; landscape architecture firms Gustafson Porter + Bowman, of London; and Reed Hilderbrand of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut.