WILLIAMSTOWN -- The $170 million campus expansion project at the Clark Art Institute is about to hit another milestone: Due to the work, all the museum's galleries will be closed between Sept. 9 and 22 -- a rarity for the regional art institution that opened in 1955.
Significant progress has been made in the construction of a new visitors center and the renovation of the original museum building. Now the project is about to move into the Manton Research Center for renovation and repurposing.
As a result, the five-year-old Stone Hill Center, just up the hill from the main campus, will be the institute's primary gallery space until the expansion project is completed in the summer of 2014. But between the closing of the galleries in the Manton building and the installation of new shows in the Stone Hill Center, there will be no open exhibitions.
"From the time of the [museum] opening in 1955, it was common practice for the Clark to close for several weeks each winter," said Vicki Saltzman, director of communications for the Clark. "So, the 12-day closure in September is merely a brief hiatus while we transition between gallery spaces."
According to information released by the Clark, selections from its permanent collection will be temporarily relocated to galleries in the Stone Hill Center and will be the focus of a series of exhibitions.
First up will be three installations with thematically related pieces from the collection, which opens at Stone Hill Center on Sept. 21.
They are "Sacred and Profane: Four Hundred Years of Religious and Mythological Paintings," "Land, Sea, and Sky: The Natural World in Art 1600-1900," and "Face Time: Portraits and Figures in Paintings and Sculpture"
The shows will include work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, Piero della Francesca, Claude Monet and George Inness.
"We've reached the most complex -- and most exciting -- part of our campus expansion program," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark, in a statement. "We will soon begin construction of the new Works on Paper Study Center and galleries, as well as the renovation of our public lobby spaces in the Manton Research Center. As construction moves into these spaces, the Clark will focus its attention on the galleries of our Stone Hill Center to provide our visitors with the continued opportunity of enjoying many of the works in our collection."
The Stone Hill Center was the first phase of the expansion. Completed in 2008 on the southern side of the 140-acre campus, it is typically used for smaller, specialized installations during the summer and early autumn.
"While these [Stone Hill] spaces provide a smaller setting, our curatorial team has risen to the challenge of creating intimate shows that we hope will provide a fresh perspective on some of the most beloved works in our collection," Conforti said.
The second phase of the expansion project -- an underground infrastructure, security and shipping/receiving dock -- was completed in 2011.
The final phase includes construction of the 44,400-square-foot visitor and exhibition center, which features glass walls that bring light into the building and allows visitors to better connect with the natural surroundings.
It also includes a total renovation of the original museum building as well as the Manton Research Center, which was built in the 1970s. The installation of new landscaping includes a 1.5-acre reflecting pool adjacent to the new visitors center.
The project will allow the Clark to utilize the Manton Research Center more specifically for research and education, as well as allow the public more access to the institute's extensive collection of prints and etchings, Saltzman said.
But for now, adjustments have to be made to allow the project to continue.
"It's a huge project, and at some point you have to move out of the way of construction," Saltzman said.
The staff has had to be nimble throughout the process, as much of the institute's office space has been temporarily relocated, and some will likely be relocated again before all is finished, she added.
But the institute's focus on research and exhibition continues unabated, Saltzman said.
"All along our goal has been to exhibit as much of our collection as we can," she said. "The fun of it has been the creative challenge and the use of different philosophies on how you show art."
Figures provided by the Clark show an average annual attendance of about 200,000 people.
According to the results of an EDM economic impact study released late last year, the campus expansion project is generating 523 new construction jobs with an economic impact on Massachusetts labor income of $20.7 million.
Other conclusions indicate that local and state tax revenues will increase by $992,000 per year during construction and $529,000 per year after construction is completed.
And after completion, the expanded museum and research center is likely to generate an additional 80 jobs related to the tourism industry.