Jun 17, 2016

Santa Fe's Classic Halpin Building to See New Life as Satellite Site for New Mexico Museum of Art

Roughly two years after a strategic plan identified a need for a second New Mexico Museum of Art location, a capital campaign has been launched to pay for the renovation of that location, otherwise known as the historic Halpin Building.

“Our goal is to raise $10 million in private money,” says Jamie Clements, the president and chief executive officer of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

Of that amount, at least $8.7 million will go towards renovating the Halpin, which is located at the southwest corner of Montezuma Avenue and South Guadalupe Street, and for years served as the home to the State Records and Archives.

After that agency moved to another location in 1998, a variety of plans were aired regarding a repurposing of the building, which is named in honor of Joseph Halpin, the State of New Mexico’s first records administrator.

But it wasn’t until Mary Kershaw visited the structure that a new future use presented itself.

Halpin Buildilng, photo courtesy of People and Ideas

“I had been looking to use the building for storage, because that is effectively what it had been used for before,” says Kershaw, who is the director of the New Mexico Museum of Art.

“But walking into that space when it was empty, and looking at the volume and nature of the space, just spoke to me,” says Kershaw, who immediately envisioned the two-story building transformed as a contemporary art space.

The fact that the Halpin offers 8,500 square feet of open room with high ceilings and exposed brick walls also helped: “It is really an absolutely incredible space,” she adds.

The need for a second New Mexico Museum of Art location has been well-known among the enthusiasts of the facility for years.

The current museum at 107 West Palace Avenue, housing over 20,000 works ranging from the era of the historic Santa Fe and Taos art colonies to international contemporary art, comprises some 55,000 square feet.

“It was built in 1917 as a contemporary arts venue, which was quite a revolutionary thing in itself for that time,” says Kershaw.

Originally opened as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico, the museum has through the decades served a particularly important function in introducing the work of New Mexican artists to both visitors and critics across the globe.

But the structure has no classroom space to speak of, nor additional space for collection storage.

On top of everything else, the building’s gallery space, while admittedly attractive to visitors, is not, says Kershaw, “suitable for contemporary art and new media.” The space also falls short in being able to handle the size and scale of many of today’s contemporary art exhibits.

In converting the Halpin Building, the museum will get 8,500 square feet of new exhibit space, along with a larger 33,950 square feet of new space overall.

The Halpin renovation will also see the building of more education and studio space, as well as a kitchen, cafe, and new loading dock.

But getting to the renovation has proven to be a painstaking and precise process: Lord Cultural Resources of Toronto, a well-known museum planning firm, was hired to study the challenges of having a two-location museum.

After that, notes Clements, “We hired a fund-raising counsel to help us determine if we could raise the $10 million needed.”

“Once it was determined that we could, we presented to the Foundation board and got their approval to move forward on the campaign,” he adds.

That three-year campaign is officially called the Centennial Campaign, in honor of the museum’s 100-year birthday next year.

Of the $10 million expected to be raised, $300,000 will be targeted into a bridge fund that, says Clements, “will support the museum’s programming over the three years that we are raising capital monies instead of raising annual support.”

If all goes as anticipated, the Capital Campaign will reach its goal sometime in early 2019, and then, says Clements, “once we have the money in hand, we will move towards the renovation.”

That renovation is expected to be completed in 2020, ushering in an entirely new era for one of the oldest and most popular operating museums in the country. 


By Garry Boulard

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