New Mexico Museum of Art to transform Halpin Building into satellite site

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By Anne Constable / The New Mexican

Halpin Building to become satellite site

New Mexico Museum of Art has plans to renovate the Halpin Building in the Railyard District into a new contemporary art museum. The Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s board approved a $10 million Centennial Campaign to raise the $8.7 million needed for the renovation. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

A little-used state building at the northern gateway to the Santa Fe Railyard is set to get a makeover.

The old state archives building at the corner of Guadalupe Steet and Montezuma Avenue in the Railyard District is scheduled to become a satellite location for the New Mexico Museum of Art and a showcase of contemporary art by local, national and international artists.

The state recently transferred the Halpin Building with its Gilberto Guzman mural facing Guadalupe Street to the Museum of New Mexico, allowing it to move forward on renovating the building for use by the Museum of Art. The building, which was reroofed a few years ago, is undergoing mold abatement, according to Jamie Clements, president and CEO of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

Last November, the foundation’s board approved a $10 million Centennial Campaign to, among other things, raise the $8.7 million needed for the renovation. Engineers have not yet done a formal assessment of the structure, which is mostly vacant , although the downtown New Mexico History Museum is still storing some items there. Clements said that it appears to be in pretty good shape.

No architect has yet been chosen, but the vision for the building includes an 8,500-square-foot gallery on the first floor with exposed brick walls and high ceilings that would lend itself to displays of large-scale contemporary art. The museum is also planning for classroom space, which it does not have in the 1917 building downtown. The Museum of Art on the Plaza also does not have much space for social functions, unless the event can take place outside.

Offices, studios and a small shop or cafe are also envisioned. The basement contains about 8,000 square feet for collections storage.

Clements said that when the museum on Palace Avenue was built, it was a flagship art museum for Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico. But now it’s too small and ill-suited to contemporary art. There have been a couple of attempts to build out from the museum, but Clements said it is “too difficult to build in the historic district.”

Repurposing the old records building is “a great solution,” he said.

According to Clements, many museums have built satellite locations, including museums in Seattle, London, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. “Museums are going to the people,” he said. “This is a modem solution to the museums’ needs.”

The 1917 building has about 55,000 square feet and the only expansion in 100 years was a 5,000- square-foot addition. The new building will add 34,000 square feet. “Imagine what that will mean,” Clements said.

The Territorial-style building with brick coping on Guadalupe Street will get a new facade, although nothing like the bold, nautical exterior planned for Site Santa Fe, also in the Railyard. But, Clements said, “We will have an exterior that says contemporary art museum. What that means right now, I don’t know. We’re mindful that it’s in a prominent place and is a gateway to the Railyard. It needs to be that kind of building.”

The new location will allow the museum to grow its contemporary art collection. “It really is going to breathe new life into the Museum of Art and allow us to meet the future needs of Santa Fe,” Clements said. “It has real value to the museum and tremendous benefits to the Santa Fe community and the state.”

The $10 million campaign also hopes to provide $300,000 for a bridge fund to support exhibitions and education programming during the fundraising period and $1 million to renovate the Shonnard House at 1411 Paseo de Peralta across from Restaurant Martin. The buildings, including a main house and studio, were bequeathed to the foundation by Eugenie Shonnard, a sculptor.

The foundation leased the property to a local real estate agent for 30 years, but in September it took the building back and moved shops and licensing staff there. The foundation plans to add a third structure to the back part of the property to become a campus for the foundation and give the Hewitt House on Lincoln Avenue back to the Museum of Art.

The state archives in 1998 moved from the Guadalupe Street building, named for Joseph Halpin, the state’s first records administrator, to a new facility on Cerrillos Road.

This isn’t the first proposal since then to repurpose the old building. In 2003, Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque, proposed a museum devoted to filmmaking in New Mexico at the site. The city of Santa Fe looked into acquiring the building , but after learning about the museum ‘s plans, the mayor and two city councilors proposed a transportation hub on leased land next to the building that was to include a bus stop, cafe, bicycle rental shop, information booth, artifact displays, public restrooms and retail spaces.

The target for opening the satellite location for the Museum of Art is 2020. A request for capital outlay money to restore the mural was line-item vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez this year, but Clements said the museum would try again for funding.

Contact Anne Constable at 505-986-3022 or aconstable@sfnewmexican.com.

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