By Nic Custer
The Flint Institute of Arts began construction this month on a major expansion of its art school and galleries. The project includes a $5 million Contemporary Craft Wing and a $3.5 million artist’s makerspace with glass studios and a metal casting foundry.
FIA staff, and local dignitaries and donors broke ground on the project at a ceremony June 30.
The 8,565 sq. ft. gallery wing will face Longway Planetarium and contain three galleries and two donated collections, the Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger contemporary ceramics collection and the Sherwin and Shirley Glass contemporary glass collection, which is on permanent loan from the Isabel Foundation.
It will have skylights, a freight elevator and an additional 5,900 sq. ft. lower level for storage and art handling. The exterior of the gallery wing will continue the brick and glass design of the C. S. Mott Wing.
On the opposite side of the building, the art school will build out its west courtyard adding a 3,960 sq. ft. facility with a glass blowing studio, ceramics studio, a bronze and aluminum-casting foundry and collapsible stadium seating. A glass flameworking studio will also be added to an existing second floor space. A sculpture and mold making studio will be added to the first floor. The makerspace is both a demonstration area for museum visitors and a studio for classes and guest artists.
Construction is expected to be completed by Fall 2017. FIA will hire a fulltime glassmaster to help run the new space.
The construction is funded in part by an $8.5 million C.S. Mott Foundation grant. An additional $1 million in equipment costs including glass furnaces and gallery lighting are still unfunded. FIA is seeking $4 million in donations to support expanded operations of the glass studio.
Bill White, chief executive officer of the C. S. Mott Foundation, complimented the FIA staff and board of directors for their management of the museum. He said the Cultural Center is a unique, world-class destination centered around education, and the art school expansion will allow future generations of young people to learn how to make things and move the city forward.
The Burger ceramics collection is currently on display in the FIA and includes pieces as large as ten feet tall.
FIA is the second largest art museum in Michigan and has the sixth largest art museum school in the country.
EVM Managing Editor Nic Custer can be reached at NicEastvillage@gmail.com.