Crocker Art Museum $100 million expansion: one year later

The Crocker Art Museum opened the doors to a new 125,000-square foot expansion of the original museum on Oct. 10, 2010. One year later, the museum has seen record numbers in attendance and successfully brought the past and the present together in one work of architectural art.

The original Victorian building that Margaret E. Crocker presented to the city of Sacramento in May 1885 has undergone numerous changes over the years, but none so dramatic as the $100 million, three-year project that visitors see now.

“The original building was the high style contemporary architecture of the day when it was built,” said Lial A. Jones, executive director for the Crocker Art Museum. “So is the new addition.”

Jones said the project architects, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, did a “fabulous job” with the design that connects a 19th-century structure with a new-millennium stricture without losing continuity.

“They found ways of honoring the old with the new,” Jones said. “They used the rooflines and porches on the new building to echo the old building – but it doesn’t stand out (from the old section), it complements it.”

According to a recent press release, in the year since the museum expansion was open to the public, more than a quarter million visitors have come through the door.

In the year since the museum launched its Studio Art Program, 701 students have enrolled, including 213 children and 488 adults, the release also states.

Sacramento resident and Crocker member Mary Anderson and a friend visiting from St. Paul, Minn., Jean Wolf, went to the museum Friday to have lunch in the new cafe before exploring the vast expansion.

“We are members of the Crocker, but this is the first visit to the new part,” Anderson said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

Anderson said she was dubious about an addition to the original museum structure.

“It’s more museum-like now,” Anderson said. “The lighting and the openness of the space – there’s more room for art. They were so confined for space before.”

Jones said such a reaction has been common among visitors to the Crocker over the past year.

“Times have changed, and so have people’s expectations,” Jones said. “The Crocker was built in the 19th century, and it was very much in the English gallery style of the time.”

Today’s Crocker, Jones said, is much more a “museum of today.”

The size and layout of exhibits allows for the traffic flow of larger groups of people, Jones said, and a variety of pathways have been created through the exhibits allowing people to choose their experience: Start with modern works and work toward the older pieces, or explore continent to continent.

The expansion more than tripled the museum’s size, which is a good thing considering the total collection of artwork numbers a little over 15,000 pieces – and not all of that is on view at the same time.

“Perhaps 10 to 12 percent is on view at any given time,” Jones said.

In July, the Crocker Art Museum was awarded a federal Museums of America grant of $148,441 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grant money can be used for a variety of projects at the museum, including research, planning and new programs that support efforts to integrate new technologies, according to a press release from Congresswoman Doris Matsui.

“We’ve tried to make the best use of the new space and integrate it with the previous space in a way that makes sense,” Jones said. “Programs and activities are also an important part of what we do here at the Crocker.”

Admission to the Crocker Art Museum is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students, $5 for youths 7-17, children 6 and under and Crocker members get in free.

Memberships to the museum start at $65 for individuals and $85 for a family. Other membership levels are available – contact the museum for more information.

The Crocker Art Museum is located at 216 O St. in downtown Sacramento.

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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October 24, 2011 | 2:43 PM

That building is BUTT-UGLY and is a mutilation of the existing structure. It looks like some klutz stuck the headquarters of a pharmaceutical firm on the old building. It is a joke.

Avatar of kes
October 25, 2011 | 9:33 AM

Okay, I definitely prefer the more classic architecture. And I’d be happier if some living greenery were introduced into the big bare cement patio between the old Crocker and the new. But –
if the new Crocker is like a great big white box, it’s also like a jewelry box, full of gorgeous gems. There is so much to see and admire in it that I completely forget about the outside of the building. Great to have space for all those works that were previously hidden, and more space for better viewing of old favorites.
And of course you can still go into the original building, where the ceramic works are glowing and gleaming.
(For anyone who can remain disgruntled after all that pleasure, I recommend one of the great big DELICIOUS chocolate brownies from the cafe.)

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