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Seattle Residents Protest Asian Art Museum’s $45 Million Expansion Project

Seattle residents have launched a petition protesting Seattle Art Museum’s $45 million expansion of its Asian Art Museum citing the museum’s lack of transparency regarding the project and its plans to encroach on a beloved city park’s space, Jen Graves of The Stranger reports.

In a statement, the Seattle Art Museum said that the overhaul will “allow us to expand onsite conservation care of our collections and to give additional emphasis to South Asian art, a critical area for future development.”

Designed by LMN Architects, the expansion project will boast of an additional 7,500-square-feet of space for exhibitions, an education studio, and art storage. According to spokeswomen Rachel Eggers, only 20 percent of the project budget will be spent on the expansion. The majority of the budget will fund the renovation of the institution’s 1933 building, which will include upgrades to the facility’s heating and A/C systems and bathrooms. The museum will also address its accessibility for disabled visitors and make seismic improvements. It plans to close its doors in the spring of 2017 to begin construction, which is slated to take eighteen months.

According to Capitol Hill Seattle, Seattle resident Jonathan Mark was critical of the museum’s takeover of part of Volunteer Park, a nearly fifty-acre city park in the Capitol hill neighborhood. He said, “This plan reduces critically needed open space and tree cover. The area is a lovely and well used part of the park, providing a quiet retreat away from the more social space formed by the triangle of the big lawn, conservatory, and water tower.”

Volunteer Park Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring, preserving, and protecting the park, wrote a letter to Seattle Art Museum reminding the institution to respect and take into consideration the needs of the park as it moves forward with its expansion.

In an email, director and CEO Kimerly Rorschach told Lauren Cavalli of that “We are in the early design phase for the Asian Art Museum’s much-needed renovation and proposed modest expansion. As part of the public phase of this process, we have been working closely for over a year with the City of Seattle and parks advocacy groups—including the Seattle Parks Foundation, Volunteer Park Trust, and Friends of Seattle’s Olmstead Parks—to develop our plans. In addition, this summer we began a series of community outreach sessions to share information and hear feedback that will continue into winter. While we are still far from a final design, the intention is to create a solution that preserves the historic building, affirms the Museum’s ability to function as a modern museum and important cultural resource, and enhances the natural beauty of Volunteer Park.”

The project was initially due to launch in 2008, but was postponed after the collapse of Washington Mutual, which led to financial hardships for the museum. In 2014, the City Council allotted $11 million funds for the expansion. Seattle’s Architectural Review Committee reviewed the designs for the historic building during a meeting on August 12. Community outreach meetings will continue to be hosted by the museum throughout the fall.