Hackerman House generates excitement, great expectations

May 01, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Hackerman House, the Walters Art Gallery's museum of Asian art opening Sunday, is expected to have a significant impact on the Walters, on the art-loving public and on tourism here.

Walters director Robert P. Bergman, for instance, expects a major increase in attendance. When the original, 1904 building reopened in 1988 after a complete renovation, attendance rose from about 150,000 to about 200,000 annually. "From the excitement that's been generated about this," Mr. Bergman says, "I would think a similar if not a greater increase would occur."

Mr. Bergman cites two major reasons for the unusual interest: the collection and the house. Unlike the collection of Renaissance through 18th century works in the 1904 building, the Asian collection is not well known because so little of it has been on view. As for Hackerman House itself, considered one of the great town houses of the 19th century, "virtually nobody knows it," he said.

Wayne Chappell, executive director of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, says the new museum will provide "a major boost to the total cultural package that we have." The complex's cafe, which will be open to the public for lunch and can be hired for evening functions, will be an important attraction aside from the Asian collection, he thinks.

"Many convention groups and the upper end of the motor coach groups in town may want to rent the facility," Mr. Chappell notes. "The Walters has long been recognized as a world-class attraction" and the addition of Hackerman House and the cafe will provide "a real sellable and desirable package."

The addition will have far-reaching effects on the Walters in several ways. Hackerman House is expected to raise Walters expenses by $300,000 to $400,000. (The 1991 budget of $6.4 million reflects about half that increase, since the house opens in the middle of the year.) The gallery has raised $1.5 million in endowment to provide income to offset perhaps a quarter of the increase, the cafe is expected to bring in $50,000 to $100,000 a year, and the rest will have to come from increased fund-raising. (Admissions are "not a significant revenue source," Mr. Bergman says.)

In terms of staff, Hackerman House has required the hiring of an additional conservator, a curatorial assistant, an additional art handler in the registrar's office and a "significant increase in the security staff," Mr. Bergman said, though he would not give an exact number. The gallery has also added docents who speak Asian languages.

To handle an anticipated increased demand for parking, Mr. Bergman looks forward to the opening of a multi-story parking lot a block away on Franklin Street, expected later this year.

Opening activities

Sunday, noon: Parade begins at the Convention Center on Pratt Street and proceeds north on Charles Street to a reviewing stand at Centre Street.

Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremonies; Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and emissaries from several Asian countries are expected.

Sunday, 1:30 p.m.-6 p.m.: Hackerman House opens to the public. Admission (usually $3) is free today, but tickets, granting admittance at half-hour intervals, are required. They may be obtained on a first-come, first-served basis at a tent at the base of the Washington Monument beginning at noon.

Tuesday, 8 p.m.: Seoul Performing Arts troupe performs program of Korean dances, music, and stylized vignettes. Tickets, $12 ($10 for Walters members, students and seniors).

May 8, 2 p.m.: Lecture by Martha Jones on architectural adaptation of Hackerman House. Tickets, $10.

May 11, 1 p.m.: Chinese kite-making workshop, recommended for children 6-9. Cost is $15 for an adult and one child; $4 for each additional person (cost to Walters members: $12 and $3).

May 12, 8 p.m.: Singer/songwriter Patricia Shih performs. Tickets are $10 ($8 for members, students and seniors).

May 14, 16, 21, 23 (8 p.m.): Lecture series, "Chinese Art Through the Ages." Series tickets are $18 ($14 for members, students and seniors); single tickets are $5 and $4.

May 17, 24, 31 (8 p.m.): Films from China -- "The Black Cannon Incident," "Sacrificed Youth" and "In the Wild Mountains." Series tickets are $7 ($4 for members, students and seniors); single tickets are $3 and $2.

For information, call 547-9000.

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