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Butler art museum to get supersized

$2.3 million addition to showcase works of art as tall as 15 feet

This architectural drawing shows the new 3,810-square-foot expansion to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. A groundbreaking ceremony was Thursday at the museum to usher in the addition. ...Submitted photo

YOUNGSTOWN — The Butler Institute of American Art’s collection has continued to grow over the years, and soon the nationally acclaimed museum will have another vital area of growth: added room.

“The whole idea is to create an expanded space where we can accommodate very large works,” Louis A. Zona, the Butler’s executive director, said.

Zona was referring to a $2.3 million, 3,810-square-foot addition to the museum. That was the thrust behind Thursday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony and program at the Butler, 524 Wick Ave.

The new section will be the Vincent and Phyllis Bacon Wing, named after the Canfield couple who donated a gift of about $1 million for the project.

The three-floor building, with a glass-enclosed front, will face Wick Avenue and make certain pieces of art easily visible from the outside. Work is expected to wrap up in October, and the new wing could open by year’s end, Wendy Swick, the museum’s public-relations director, said.

The Butler has about 22,000 pieces of art, including prints and ceramics, in its permanent collection, Zona noted. The added space is essential for very large pieces of artwork, including some by Paul Jenkins, a major American abstract expressionist painter who was based in New York City, he explained.

In addition, the 102-year-old museum has about 98 works from the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based David W. Bermant Foundation, Zona noted.

The late Bermant, an Army veteran who also built shopping centers, was a longtime art collector who favored kinetic pieces that depict “motion or perceived motion,” the director added.

Some of the pieces from the Bermant collection will need the new space to be stored and exhibited, Zona continued.

The three-level wing will feature storage space and a vault on the lower floor, a gallery space on the second level and, on the main floor, a Grand Gallery display area with a 22- or 23-foot ceiling to accommodate unusually large pieces of art, including one that is about 15 feet tall, C. Robert Buchanan, the project’s chief architect, noted.

In his remarks Thursday, Buchanan added that in 2018, he and Zona considered six possible sites for the expansion before deciding on the current site.

A key significance of the Grand Gallery is that it “will allow dramatic presentation of large-scale artworks that we have not had the opportunity or space to display before,” Zona said in a statement.

“This institution over the years has brought so much to the community. We’ve always been interested in art,” said Vincent Bacon, the Butler board’s secretary and a longtime patron, referring to a primary reason for the gift.

The new addition also can further deepen the connection between the Butler and Youngstown State University via potentially drawing more students and faculty, Phyllis Bacon added.

Boardman-based Davis International Inc. serves as contractor.

news@vindy.com

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