BMA considers the Power Plant to showcase art

October 25, 1990|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Evening Sun Staff

The Baltimore Museum of Art is considering showcasing its collection of contemporary art at the Power Plant in the Inner Harbor.

The museum is one of seven candidates to submit proposals to Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc., the agency directing the search for a developer for the facility on Pier 4. The BMA plan would establish a center for its collection of post-World War II art and also create a space to host international traveling shows. The complex would include commercial art galleries, a museum shop and cafe and a 200-seat auditorium designed for educational programming.

The complex would use approximately half of the facility's 106,000 square feet.

While this proposal is being considered, the museum will continue planning a $7 million wing for the BMA on Art Museum Drive -- the original solution for housing its expanding collection of contemporary art.

"It has to be very clear that our proposal is an important first step in an exploration," said museum director Arnold Lehman. "We are not giving up on Art Museum Drive, we are pursuing both of these possibilities simultaneously. Our plans for the wing are moving forward: We're exploring alternative energy sources, a whole new way of looking at lighting, value engineering.

"But we need to put our toe in the water and explore ways we can best serve the city and the region. There are enormous unknowns for us downtown . . . but we recognize that the Power Plant might offer us a very exciting alternative."

If the museum decided to base its annex in the Power Plant, it would use the nearly $4 million in state and city money already approved for building the new wing. It would also use the same architect: Bower Lewis Thrower/Architects of Philadelphia.

The Power Plant complex consists of three buildings. The BMA proposal concerns the two buildings closest to the water. The Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts Inc., plans to use the Pratt Street building for a 350-seat off-Broadway theater due to open next year.

Center City-Inner Harbor will appoint a panel to review the plans. If the BMA's proposal is selected, the museum will wait for favorable reports from feasibility and marketing studies before committing its resources to the new space.

The proposal calls for the BMA branch to open in about three years.

"It would be an exciting addition to downtown Baltimore and the arts community," said George Ciscle, director of the recently formed Museum for Contemporary Arts. "It can only help bring a wider audience to the visual arts, especially from out of state."

Other proposals submitted for the Power Plant facility include a children's museum, a high-technology information center, a complex of restaurants and shops and a family entertainment complex with television and video production facilities.

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