Halpin Building set to be art gallery

Posted on in category Press

By Jackie Jadrnak / Journal North Reporter

The Halpin Building

The Halpin Building on the corner of Guadalupe Street and Montezuma Avenue has been chosen as a satellite site for the New Mexico Museum of Art. The building once housed the State Records Center and Archives. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The New Mexico Museum of Art has chosen a site for a new satellite location intended to present a more contemporary brand of art: the Halpin Building, former home of the State Records Center and Archives, located at the southwest corner of Guadalupe Street and Montezuma Avenue.

That sets it at the gateway of a number of other contemporary art galleries that have sprung up in the Railyard District – and it’s just across the railroad track terminus from George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema.

“It’s continuing to develop as a hub for contemporary art venues,” said Veronica Gonzales, secretary of the state Department of Cultural Affairs, of the district. She noted that the New Mexico School for the Arts will locate in the nearby Sanbusco Center, and that the museum may establish some collaborations with students and instructors there.

“The structure of the (Halpin) building lends itself to large­scale contemporary arts,” she said. “And the state already owns it.”

The plans will take a while to turn into reality – the timing depends on the success of fundraising efforts, but Jamie Clements, president/CEO of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, said he’s launching the three­year campaign next month and the target is an opening date in 2020.

But that’s not long to wait for an expansion that’s been discussed for the last quarter ­century and a museum that will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.

Artist's rendering

This artist’s rendering shows the planned satellite location for the New Mexico Museum of Art. (Courtesy DCA)

In a PowerPoint presentation provided to the Journal, the Foundation estimated that it would need to raise $8.5 million for Halpin Building renovations and fundraising costs, along with $500,000 for exhibitions and programs for the first three years of operations at the satellite museum.

The Department of Cultural Affairs, meanwhile, will seek state budget allocations to increase Museum of Art operating funds by $1 million annually, while also looking for about $6 million for renovations, preservation work and upgrades on the current museum as part of its five year capital improvements plan, Gonzales said.

“The current Museum of Art is a very important historic building for not just New Mexico, but for the United States,” she said. “It’s one of the eminent models of Pueblo Revival (architecture) in the U.S.”

Attempts to expand the museum at its current site failed twice in the past, according to museum director Mary Kershaw in the PowerPoint presentation, noting that many difficulties face new construction in Santa Fe’s historic district.

The Museum of Art has both less exhibition space (11,098 square feet) and total space (55,125 square feet) than the museums of Indian Arts and Culture and International Folk Art, according to a graph, with the New Mexico History Museum leading the list with 26,046 square feet (exhibitions) and 118,759 square feet (total). The new building would give the Museum of Art another 34,000 square feet of total space.

“It’s basically been the same size for 100 years,” Clements said. “It’s just too small to fulfill its mission to be the flagship art museum for Santa Fe.”

The museum has no more space for storage, no indoor space for functions or dedicated classrooms and no gallery space appropriate for displaying largescale works that are common on the contemporary scene. The satellite location is expected to provide all those.

The current lack of storage space hampers the museum in expanding its art collection, Gonzales said. “There are a lot of contemporary art collectors in Santa Fe and New Mexico,” she continued. “We don’t want to see them go out of New Mexico if they are going to be donating their collections. We’re hoping this will be very attractive to collectors here to make donations.”

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