By David Skolnick
The Butler Institute of American Art will be connected to its nearby education center by a glass-enclosed bridge walkway.
The education center, the former First Christian Church purchased in 2005 by the museum and named Butler North, will house an extensive Americana collection on its second floor as part of the $1.5 million project, said Dr. Louis Zona, the Butler’s director.
“This project, once completed, will become another wonderful venue for our community,” he said. “Not only will the Butler be known for its world-class painting collection, but will also be recognized for its breathtaking collection of Americana spanning three centuries.”
The bridge will be a walkway gallery, and will display the museum’s historic glass-bell collection, Zona said. The project also includes a glass-enclosed elevator at Butler North.
Butler North’s second floor will be converted into galleries to exhibit the museum’s Americana collection, much of it donated by the estate of George Breckner, who was a Howland High School art teacher and Butler volunteer, Zona said.
The collection includes carousel horses, “the finest collection of duck decoys in the country,” weather vanes, historic wooden signs, ship models and other art objects, Zona said.
“Bits and pieces of it can be seen [at the Butler] like the boat models, but most of it is in storage,” Zona said. “Now, we’ll have a place to display it.”
The project is designed by C. Robert Buchanan, an architect.
The city’s Design Review Committee approved the Butler’s proposal Tuesday. The committee oversees exterior improvements to the city’s downtown and nearby areas. The museum is located on Wick Avenue.
Committee members praised the proposal and thanked the Butler for the investment in Youngstown.
The work will begin later this month and be completed in about six months, Zona said.
The Butler has raised about two-thirds to three-quarters of the $1.5 million needed for the project, Zona said. That’s enough to do the bridge and elevator, he said.
“The last phase will be the restoration of the second floor,” Zona said. “We’re optimistic about [raising all the money in time]. It’s been a longtime dream.”
The museum is interested in selling naming rights for the bridge, Butler North’s galleries and the Great Hall, the former church sanctuary that can be used for gatherings, performances, events and wedding ceremonies.
The museum bought the former church, opened in 1934, for $427,000 in 2005.
Also Tuesday, the Design Review Committee approved a $180,000 improvement project for 15, 17 and 19 W. Federal St., owned by Massullo Properties LLC.
The plan is to open Avalon Gardens Pizzeria at 17 W. Federal St., using a portion of Club eXclusive, a nightclub at 15 W. Federal, said Michael Sabella, whose wife owns Massullo Properties.
The downtown project’s exterior improvements include a railing and outdoor seating for Avalon, which will sell pizza, salads and soups, Sabella said.
Vogue Jewelers will remain at 19 W. Federal St.
All the work, including opening the new restaurant, should be done in about eight weeks, Sabella said.